Games in Brief

After spending a couple of months going crazy on DS ports of old RPGs, I switched to downloaded tv shows, and currently I am in the middle of a casual game frenzy. I’ve been blowing through them at a pretty rapid clip, since I have hours every night to kill where I must be prepared to stop what I’m doing at a moment’s notice. In other words, school work = out, work work = out, reading = out. DS was ok because closing it will pause the game, but some of the games did still require a certain amount of concentration.

In no particular order, my quick thoughts on some of the games I’ve played:

Azada and Azada: Ancient Magic
The first Azada was somewhat similar to one of my most favorite DS games, Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Its weaknesses were a couple of puzzle types that were lame (the math puzzle springs to mind) and too much repetition of certain types (the math puzzle springs to mind). But it was a good collection of quick little brain-teaser kind of puzzles with a few very very simple ‘room escape’ sort of puzzles thrown in. The second Azada unfortunately was much weaker than the first in gameplay, as it decided to frame all of the puzzles within the context of a room/scene, giving the item location puzzles precedence over all else. We’ll see if they correct this misstep in the next iteration. I will say that the story of the second Azada was more interesting.

Dream Chronicles 1-3
This was an interesting set of games, of the point and click item collection/puzzle type. The first game suffered from an overly helpful puzzle engine, which would make the next item you were supposed to click sparkle after only a few seconds of non-movement. There was also an internal sub-game where you were to collect small jewels hidden in each scene, but there was no counter to tell you you’d gotten them all and no way to return to scenes after you’d left them. An odd omission. The second improved upon the first by dialling back the unwanted assistance and improving the quality of the puzzles. The third improved still more, but an over-reliance on Simon type memory puzzles threatened to derail its progress.

Samantha Swift 1 & 2
These two games were more classic hidden object type games with a few puzzles thrown in so they could call it an adventure game instead. The premise behind the games was somewhat interesting, and it was the backstory’s similary to Vesper Holly that led me to grab them in the first place. Unfortunately the game play was very weak. The scenes were often filled with multiple items which might conceivably fulfill the object you were supposed to be looking for. To combat this, the authors decided to include a ‘scanner’ which would show you a silhouette of your target object if you clicked on its name. But then if you moved your cursor around randomly on the screen, the silhouette would turn red when you were near the object. It was thus possible to locate absolutely everything with no actual effort. Lame. The ‘puzzles’ included were not usually very complex or interesting; a few weeks after playing through the games, I can only bring to mind one or two.

Madama Fate and Ravenhearst 2
I had played the original Ravenhearst game way back when it first came out — back when hidden object games were a pretty new genre and both J and I were excited to download any random new one which appeared. Madama Fate didn’t push the genre envelope at all and by the time I was done, I was pretty bored. Ravenhearst 2 on the other hand really set a gold standard by which other games can be judged. The hidden object portions of the game didn’t overwhelm the rest of the gameplay and the scenes weren’t so crowded as to require a nose to the computer screen, squinting. The additional puzzles were varied, interesting and balanced out the rest of the game.

Mortimer Beckett and the Time Paradox
Mortimer Beckett is another hidden object/puzzle game series, and I tried this one to see if it was worth getting the rest. It was not. This game decided that it was too easy to find whole items, so it would be better to find little bits of items. I really didn’t enjoy it, because it was hard to figure out what the fragments might look like.

Chocolatier 1-3
I really hate games like Diner Dash, which require you to devote all of your attention to the game and keep clicking constantly. From the description of these games, it sounded like they weren’t that sort of game, but I wasn’t 100% positive until I downloaded them and started playing. In fact they were a quite enjoyable series. I’ve seen them described as time management games, but I think it’s more resource management than time. The object of each game is to collect recipes for various chocolate items, acquire factories in which to make the chocolates, and then sell the chocolates. Along the way you will be able to fulfill a bunch of special orders which will advance the plot until you ‘win’. What makes the games a bit more interesting is that they are set in the past — the first one begins in the 1880s, the second in the 1920s, the third just after WW2.

Flux Family Secrets
Another hidden object/adventure game, this one has a plot a bit similar to Mortimer Beckett and also like Beckett involves locating pieces of items rather than whole ones. This one is not as annoying, however, because the pieces are shown so you know what you’re looking for. I found the interface a bit irritating — the list of items is split into two parts, and you can’t have both parts on the screen at the same time, so you have to keep switching back and forth. Plus, it auto switches at various points in the game depending on what you’ve just found; an aggravating distraction with it moving at the bottom of the screen. Their definition of ‘puzzle’ is also pretty loose: placing an item for which you’ve located all the parts counts as completing a ‘puzzle’. It was also strange that they kept coming back to almost the same locations. Since they changed the backgrounds they could pretty easily have chosen slightly more relevant people rather than stretching to make one person fit three or four categories. This game also has a zoom function available in every scene. I believe this is the first entry of an intended series, so we’ll see if a sequel arrives with improvements.

Nick Chase: A Detective Story
The hard-boiled detective novel in game form. I liked the atmosphere, with the comic book style scene sets and the low music. But the game was pretty short and the ‘case’ was thin. I’d like to see more plot and more to do next time, but the idea held promise.

Emerald City Confidential
You’re a detective in Emerald City, which isn’t quite the Emerald City you’re used to from the movie or the books. But the game designers are clearly quite familiar with the books and I personally found their darker version of Oz a lot more interesting than the one presented in Wicked. This is a very solid point and click adventure with strong writing and nice graphics. I only got really stuck at one spot, a result of having done what I was supposed to do, but having had my character standing in the wrong spot to do it. The puzzles were challenging without being illogical of obscure. The ending left a little bit of an opening for a sequel, which I would definitely play.

Cate West 1 & 2
The Cate West games both have pretty okay plots and all right graphics (though I do not understand why Cate always has her eyes closed. From the screencaps I totally thought she was supposed to be blind until I actually played the game.) What they suffer from most is repetition and lots of it. In both games there are more than a dozen ‘chapters’, each of which is made up of three or four games. Pretty much the same three or four games every single time. It gets very dull very fast. Because of this I found the second game much worse than the first, because one of the games I liked (find the criminal based on clues) was removed in favor of Still More Object Hunting Fun. The second game also had some writing problems — the reactions of some of the characters did not make sense based on what was happening. If they make a Cate West 3 I’ll probably play it anyway, but I seriously hope they make some improvements.


  1. jun:

    Hm, interesting. Our library also has some of the Nancy Drew games, which are pretty fun. I seem to recall you’ve played at least one, though, right?

    (June 8th, 2009 at 10:27 am)
  2. K:

    I’ve played a couple of the Nancy Drew games, yeah. I like them quite well. I’ve also had Murder on the Orient Express for quite a while and haven’t gotten around to playing it yet.

    The problem with the Nancy games is that they’re typically from a CD which I hate mucking about with. Also, I cannot remember which ones I’ve played and would hate to go to all the trouble to acquire one and discover I’d already done it.

    (June 8th, 2009 at 11:22 pm)
  3. jun:

    I *think* I had a recent Nancy game which one simply installed, but it’s possible that one also had to keep the CD in. I never actually played it. :)

    And yeah, their titles are so similar it’s hard to remember. “Did I do The Curse of the Cottage, The Mystery at the Manor, The Secret of the Shanty, or The Intrigue of the Igloo?!” *

    * not actual titles :)

    (June 9th, 2009 at 5:12 pm)
  4. Solveig:

    Great comments!
    I was wondering, since it looks like you enjoy RPGs and you’ve enjoyed Emerald City Confidential, and many other PlayFirst games – have you tried Wandering Willows at PlayFirst?

    Casual roleplaying with cute animals, plus crafting, leveling up, quests with a sense of humor. At least some of the stuff it sounds like you enjoyed in the DS ports…

    (June 11th, 2009 at 10:11 am)
  5. K:

    Are you sure? I bet at least one of those is a real game!

    (June 14th, 2009 at 1:36 am)
  6. K:

    I did actually play Wandering Willows! After I published this entry I remembered several games I’d played that were left off.

    I thought WW was very well done, if a bit short in the main plot. I’d definitely be interested in seeing more of that sort of game, perhaps with an increased level of difficulty? Or at least a bit longer with more goals to accomplish.

    (June 15th, 2009 at 12:01 am)
  7. jun:

    There is one involving a Manor, but I think it’s, like, “The Curse of Blackmoor Manor” or something like that. :)

    (June 15th, 2009 at 8:49 am)
  8. silicone case:

    Casual roleplaying with cute animals, plus crafting, leveling up, quests with a sense of humor. At least some of the stuff it sounds like you enjoyed in the DS ports…

    (June 16th, 2009 at 10:56 pm)