Review: Bookworm

Game: Bookworm
Language: Java
Category: Puzzle / Wordgame
Tested on: Debian Linux + Firefox
Rating: 4 out of 5
Offered by: Popcap Games (link)

It’s been a while since I did some reviews, so lets do some catching up. Lately I’ve been angling toward wordgames, and I had remembered playing Bookworm before, so I ran it up again

Boy was that a mistake. This game is twice as addicting as I remember it, and I remember it being quite a hook. The double-whammy is it is also available for Palm devices, so using it on my Kyocera palm phone really cemented the addiction. Again.

The basic premise is simply ‘finding words in the blocks’. The wrapping story is you’re a little bookworm eating up letters before the library burns down. The longer the words, the more points you get. Letters are also scored scrabble-like, so a word like ‘xylophone’ will score more than a word like ‘banana’.

You link up letters by either dragging the mouse across the letters, or by clicking them in sequence. The columns are staggered a half-square, so each letter is touching 6 others. Additionally, by making longer words, you get ‘bonus tiles’ that can double or quadruple your scores on a word. I’ve gotten as high as 4800 points on a single word.

The gameplay is methodical and quiet. No blasting away at aliens with this one. The interface is, as expected with Popcap, clean, easy to work with, and does its job well. The Palm version is an exact duplicate of the web version, so you can play on the road.

The long game time, even challenge, and simple approach make this one a lot of fun to play for a long time at a stretch. Check the clock often, and don’t start it up on days where you have deadlines looming.

Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy Adventure

Well here’s something convenient. Not only is it a cool lead in for the upcoming Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy movie, and not only is it a flash game that runs fine on Linux and Mac machines, but it’s nifty keano too!

This is an updated version of the original 1984 Infocom text adventure based around Douglas Adam’s excellent 5-book trilogy (though in fact when the game was written, I believe only the first 3 books of the trilogy had been completed).

Normally I’m not particularly thrilled about having to ‘flash up’ a text game to make it more modern, but in this case it’s done quite well, with a pleasant interface that doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay, as well as some interesting ‘views’ reminiscent of the graphics used in the TV series, coupled with the original ‘graphic adventure’ concept (still images with an interactive story line) that came out of the old text adventure games.

I haven’t gotten too far into the game yet, but so far it looks good. Do you remember how to get the babel fish?

Try the game on the BBC’s website.

Review: Warzone 3

It’s been a while since I found some new games to play, but rummaging around, I’ve come across Java Gameplay. They’ve got a series of nice games in the “Nice to kill a half hour” variety. What’s nice is they’ve kept older versions of the games online so you can see the sort of evolution of the games. Older wireframe games give way to texture mapped realistic landscapes, etc. Warzone is a first-person tank game that has gone through this progression.

This game is sort of “Battlezone 2000” – take the old Atari wireframe Battlezone game and take it into the modern age. You have multiple tanks to choose from, missions, complex landscapes, and a turret that can actually turn in a different direction than the tank is facing. The gameplay is good, sound and graphics are quite nice for a Java embedded app, and it runs along nicely on my IBM T40 laptop.

Java Gameplay has several other cute little shoot ’em up games available. I’ve found myself going back there a few times to just blow things up for a while to unwind from a busy coding day.

Followup: Puzzle Pirates

About a month ago, I posted a review of Puzzle Pirates. I said at the time the game looked interesting and was fun to play. A month later, I thought it might be a good idea to post an update.
I’m still playing. 🙂 And not only am I playing, I’m addicted. This is really the first MMPORG I’ve gotten into, and while it isn’t quite as immersive as, say, Everquest or World of Warcraft, it’s still mindbogglingly addictive.
Since I wrote that article, I’ve teamed up with great crew, and have recently been promoted to an officer (though a junior one. I have a lot of practice ahead of me before I can consider myself a decent officer 🙂
The puzzles are still fascinating, but with the added bonus that the crew has to work together to make the ship run well (and this is done not only by performing the puzzles well, but also working together during swordfights and trade), it really does suck you in. I’ve gotten more involved in how the commerce works in the system as well, buying and trading goods, how the individual stores, islands, and the like work.
If you like puzzles, like interracting with other folks, and like gaming where you’re working together to reach a common goal, I heartily recommend you take a serious look a look at Puzzle Pirates.

Review: Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates

Update 12/23/04 It appears that the Puzzle Pirates game system is not affiliated with Yahoo! at all. The system is a product of Three Rings Design, Inc.

I’ve always been a fan of Yahoo! Games. They’ve kept to the spirit of the net, and most (not all, but most) of their games are still Java based, and therefore run just about anywhere.

I noticed a new project they had put out called Puzzle Pirates, and decided to give it a go. It’s sort of a cross between Everquest, Popcap games, and Legos.

Continue reading “Review: Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates”

Review: Goldstrike

Game: Goldstrike
Language: Flash
Category: Puzzle / Arcade
Tested on: Debian Linux + Firefox
Rating: 3 out of 5
Offered by: Flash Arcade (link)

Goldstrike is sort of a cross between tetris and Frood. The object is to knock out continguous colored blocks in a wall that is slowly advancing toward you. Your character does this by skillfully flinging a pickaxe at the colored blocks. The more blocks you knock out, the faster the level is over, the more points you score.

This is a very simple game. What makes it so entertaining is the small improvements that just make it fun. The miner character does a little ho-down dance at the beginning and end of the levels, and the sound effects are cute and enjoyable. The game has a natural progression from ‘slow and comfortable’ up through ‘good, now that one there, and those, yes, got that one, okay good!’ straight through to ‘ahhhh! too fast! nooo! I screwed up again!’. To me that’s a mark of a well designed game. If the game gets unplayable too fast, it’s no fun. If it takes too long to get into the groove, you won’t want to invest the time.

Review: Cubis

Game: Cubis
Language: Java
Category: Puzzle
Tested on: Debian Linux + Firefox
Rating: 4 out of 5
Offered by: Yahoo Games (link)

Cubis is not a new game. I ran across it a year or two ago while trying to find games for my mom’s Mac, noted it was a Java game, and decided to check it out later. Now, while collecting pointers to webgames that will run on Mac or Linux machines, I went back and tried it out again.

The gist of Cubis is sort of a mix of Tetris, Sokoban, and Bejeweled. You are trying to match up colored blocks, par usual, but you do so by sliding them across a playing field. Blocks can bump into other blocks, push them out of the way, break them, or slide under them. Navigation is done via the mouse, with helpful highlighting marks showing where the blocks will slide

This is a beautifully rendered game. Sounds, visuals, and gameplay are very very well done. It has all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a complete game, with pause, tutorials, puzzle levels you can select, and so on. I found myself working through the tutorial again just for a refresher course, and playing more of the initial puzzle levels without succumbing to confusion or frustration. The game is just plain fun!

This is an excellent example of how a game can be written to be multiplatform, emminently playable, and quite enjoyable. Bravo to to Yahoo for publishing, and FreshGames for skill in writing such a well designed game.

Review: Jewel Quest

Language: Java
Category: Puzzle
Tested on: Debian Linux + Firefox
Rating: 2 out of 5
Offered by: Yahoo Games (link)

The world is full of gem-matching games. Since Popcap did their screamingly successful Bejeweled game lo these many years ago, zillions of folks have written similar “make 3 more of these thingies in a row” games.

Jewel Quest is a very simple adaptation of this game. It is well done, pretty, and easy to play, and in gameplay is identical to Bejeweled, except for one small change. To win the game, you need to turn all the squares in the game to gold. The squares change everytime you match up 3 or more jewels and score points.

I admit to being vaguely intrigued by the game because it had this interesting variation, which makes the game strategy more complex. You have to think ahead to find out what combinations will bring the little blinky skulls down to get rid of that last skull.

Alas, this small change to the basic structure of the game is not enough to hold the players attention more than a few minutes, and couple this with the games complete lack of any options whatsoever (you play or you don’t. You can’t pause, turn off the sound, change the skill level, or anything) makes this a quicky “Cute, but what else ya got?” game.