Zombies or Why I Love Tabletop Gaming

Over this past weekend, I volunteered at ChimaeraCon, a local convention that focused on tabletop gaming. There were some other fun things to do, like LARPing (Live Action Roleplaying), and there were some Cosplayers, but the conference really focused on tabletop gaming. I spent most of the weekend chatting up the special guests and doing my volunteer gig, but in my free time, I played some games. When I went to write down the list of games I played over the weekend, I noticed a distinct pattern in the games I chose to play and/or watch. See if you can spot it:

The Walking Dead
Zombie Dice
Zombie Fluxx
Munchkin Zombies

There were a couple of other games I popped into, like Frag and Blood Bowl, but I didn’t so much choose to play those as that’s what was available to play while I was free.

The funny part is, I don’t think I like Zombie stuff all that much! I don’t watch The Walking Dead (although that’s more of a ‘when the heck can I find the time to catch up on Season 1’ rather than a choice to not watch it). In most of my fiction reading, Zombies play a small role, if they are in the books at all. But when it comes to gaming, I adore ones where I can kill Zombies. My favorite arcade game of all time is The House of the Dead. I played Typing of the Dead and loved it (plus I’m a super fast and accurate typer so that helped.) Plants vs. Zombies–yes, please. I even like the shooter maps where someone gets to be a zombie (if I’m the one who gets to kill them.) Apparently, this love for killing  game zombies translates into tabletop gaming too.

After this weekend, my favorite Zombie tabletop game is Zombie Fluxx. If you’ve never played Fluxx–shame on you! Of course, I hadn’t played a Fluxx game until this past weekend, so it’s forgivable. I even got the game and brought it home to my kids. It’s easy enough that I can play it with a nine and six year old. The game begins with two rules. Draw one card and play one card. But the cards drawn will change the rules, like requiring that  more cards be drawn or played. Some rules are really crazy, like having to groan like a zombie every time a player draws a zombie creeper. The object is to collect the keepers (like a shotgun or lumber) and have those keepers match the goal cards (which will be ever changing). Most goals require the players to not have any zombies in front of them, so there’s ways to kill and get rid of zombies–my favorite part! There’s also some special cards that allow a player to ignore any zombies in front of them and still achieve the goal.

I wonder what the objective is in Stoner Fluxx...

For Fluxx, there’s also Pirate Fluxx (Arrr matey!), Monty Python Fluxx (which everyone would not stop talking about over the weekend, apparently if you are a Monty Python fan, this is a must have) and Eco Fluxx (which may or may not teach people about the environment…not sure.) It’s a great game and I’m looking forward to my next gaming event so I can get some adults to play more Fluxx with me.

My kids have been wanting to do Thrill the World, so perhaps I’ll get us Zombie costumes this year and dress as a Zombie. Maybe after I pretend to be a Zombie, I’ll have a better appreciation for the Zombies and won’t want to kill them quite so much. Or maybe I’ll just want to play more Zombie games, but instead want to be the Zombie.

Thrill the World is where people dress like Zombies and dance to Thriller.

Probably not.

So I’m wondering if I’m the only one who has a love for a particular theme in gaming. Does anyone else have a theme they just MUST play if the game has it?

Avenue Flo Review

A new casual game from the makers of Diner Dash recently hit the market and this one isn’t a time management game. Instead, Avenue Flo is more in the style of casual adventure games with elements of puzzling and hidden objects. And it’s great fun too! There were only a couple of things I found frustrating. First, the game is far too short. It left me wanting more. I suppose that’s not really a bad thing, but hey, I have to point out something negative! The other thing was in the chicken singing game. The chickens moved off the screen too slowly. Go ahead, accuse me of nitpicking. I don’t care. The sad thing is, that’s all I can name as wrong with this title.

Everything else is so right. The story is predictable. Flo has to save the day again. This time, it’s Ms. Big’s wedding day and someone is trying to sabotoge the big (hehe) day. Flo has to fix all the problems the saboteur created and figure out who did it. From what I can tell, Quinn, who is the wedding planner, is just sitting at the boat waiting for Flo to fix her problems. I don’t know about you, but if a wedding planner had that many problems on their biggest wedding they are ever holding, they’d be out trying to fix it, but we all know Flo is a superhero, so just suspend your disbelief and go with it/

Continue reading Avenue Flo Review

“Casual” gaming on facebook?

When I joined Facebook, I didn’t think of it as a portal to endless apps and games. I didn’t even join Facebook to catch up with my friends from high school. I joined Facebook to look at a few pictures my family posted.

So how did I get sucked into the gaming parts?

It started pretty simply. Friends that found me on Facebook would invite me to play Bejeweled, but then invited me to be a neighbor in Farmville (virtual farming). Then Café World (virtual diner)… then Mafia Wars (virtual GTA)… And pretty soon I had eight or nine game apps bookmarked for ‘casual’ gaming. And it started off casual. I’d log in to catch up with my peeps, then check the farm, plant a crop or two, then off to the diner to cook up burgers… go rob a virtual bank and hope to find a switchblade as the loot drop … you get the drill. Then, as in just about any game, I leveled up.

And then it started.

I was checking my crops twice a day, then three times, then more. I’d send shout outs to my mafia every other hour because someone beat me up and took my money. I’d need to make sure there were no spoiled dishes on my stoves. I’d need to make sure my fish weren’t dead, and if they were, beg my neighbors to revive them. Pretty soon, I was spending half an hour ‘on the farm’ just harvesting fruit off my trees. I had to collect all the money from my businesses and put it into the bank, or I’d get jacked by Default Don. I’d have to time my café dishes so I could go to sleep without running out of food, because if I did, my rating would go down and it would be harder to level up. THE HORROR!

It was when I was up at 4:30 in the morning, milking my cows that I realized there is no such thing as casual gaming on Facebook. You start off putting in a few minutes here and there on one or two games. But you get hooked and end up spending hours and hours in virtual land feeding chickens that won’t die and ‘reviving’ fish that did.

Every game is a super sneaky time-sink worse than any video game because it’s free, you don’t have to turn on any consoles or find any controllers, and it’s almost always available. And if you’re like me, you feel guilty heading to bed when your virtual cows need to be milked. And Heaven forbid you pick up a book when your virtual fish are dying…

I tried to get away; I tried to only log in twice a day, once in the morning, once before bed. If the soup spoiled, oh well; I’ll cook up something that takes three days to finish. I’d scour the feeds for ‘farmhands’ and ‘arborists’ so when I went to my now-HUGE farm, I’d just need to click the button and everything was taken care of. I still had dead fish, but I realized they’d not get any deader, so feed the rest and let someone else bring them back. And it worked for a while.

Until someone else got hooked.

I would get friend requests that I’d accept, then neighbor requests that I’d ignore. And I’d try to come up with lame excuses for not accepting the neighbor requests like “I never got the request” or “My baby accidently pressed ‘ignore…’” I’d resorted to blaming my offspring for not wanting to help my friends build a chicken coop or not wanting to save some bride’s wedding. That’s when I’d realized I’d gone too far…

So I’m back on the farm again, but I’m playing it safe with four-day crops. I took the door off my café and only put it back when I feel like cooking for someone. I still get jacked in Mafia Wars, but it’s ok, since I usually don’t have money to steal. And I flushed the dead fish… mostly. I try not to give these games the time I used to, and for the most part it works. I still enjoy playing them. I’ve just figured out how to play them on my terms.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to summon Ballista.

Funky Farm 2

I really like farm management games, which is odd since I can’t keep a real plant alive, but after playing Harvest Moon, FarmCraft, Farm Frenzy and so many others, I wasn’t sure there was any room left for new farming games. I didn’t know if Funky Farm 2 by SortaSoft could bring anything new that other farm sims hadn’t already done.

The premise begins just like any other time management game. Raise your chickens, sheep, and pigs to maximize profits, unlock new animals and farm tools as you improve. But when I saw the rewards, I quickly realized this is not another rinse-and-repeat farm sim. Players don’t receive the typical bigger watering can or a new seed to cover more ground. As you play Funky Farm, you unlock a mailbox for government farm grants, a pet llama, a pet duck and other funny farmyard surprises.

Via  Game Review: Funky Farm 2 on  Simpson’s Paradox

Lost In Blue 2 Review

lost-in-blue-2I’ve been playing Lost in Blue 2 on the DS for a while now, and while I always love games about island survival, like MyTribe, Sims 2: Castaway, etc., there’s a lot of room for improvement in Lost in Blue.

Cool minigames make use of the the DS’s capabilities, but the hundredth time you have to light a fire, it stops being fun. The same can be said for cooking, fishing, catching animals, and every other repetitive action. I’m a big fan of Cooking Mama 2, but this is no Cooking Mama. Also, the actions you need to perform repeatedly are hidden in sub-menus or are only available after a chain of choices, instead of being accessible, one-click actions.

The story begins as two high-schoolers are washed up on a beach after a shipwreck. Players can choose Jack or Amy as their primary character, but they are responsible for the survival of both. I choose Amy, and before I complain any more, I should mention how much I enjoyed playing a sweet teenager protagonist, a girl with a cute haircut and school clothes (did I mention how not-pink they were?), neatly pretty without defaulting to videogame sexy.

Read more at Lost in Blue 2 on Simpson’s Paradox

Coming Soon : Extensive List of Free To Play Games

We will have an extensive list of Free To Play Games that are played online.

Hopefully some of you will find this list useful, and actually show everyone the explosion of F2P games that are coming out.

Some are 100% Free, while most are Micro-transaction types. But they are all FREE to download and play so that you can “try” the game to see if you want to continue on and play the game, and/or buy-in to the Micro-transaction pay model.

http://www.freetoplaygaming.com

Hope you enjoy the list 🙂

‘Elias The Mighty’ Review (PC)

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)

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)

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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