Category Archives: Actually paid for it

Durion

s you know, I am a word game fanatic. In order to keep my attention, a new game must offer something unusual or distinctive. And it has to have a good dictionary. Durion’s dictionary is mostly OK. But the gameplay seemed to me, initially, to be pretty typical– a dropping letters game. You get a row of letters, make a word and zap it in for points, with bonuses for word length, speed, and how many times you’ve gone without a false entry. And so, it was headed for the recycle bin. But then I uncovered a couple of things — things I couldn’t pick up in the incredibly confusing instructions. First, I could make the letters drop faster. The default speed was mind numbingly slow. Second, I could move the letters around in the tray, a la Scrabble style. So instead of identifying words in the dropping letters, it became more of a strategy and probability game. I could choose some letters thinking that I had a high probability of using them in a word (different letters have different point value, so is a bit of a gamble — play it safe and run out of time, or go for the big points but possibly go bust!?) and then change my mind about what word to make as the letters continue to drop. As a result of this serendipitous discovery, Durion kept me occupied for a good hour straight.

Survival score: 30-60 minute sessions.

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Durion

s you know, I am a word game fanatic. In order to keep my attention, a new game must offer something unusual or distinctive. And it has to have a good dictionary. Durion’s dictionary is mostly OK. But the gameplay seemed to me, initially, to be pretty typical– a dropping letters game. You get a row of letters, make a word and zap it in for points, with bonuses for word length, speed, and how many times you’ve gone without a false entry. And so, it was headed for the recycle bin. But then I uncovered a couple of things — things I couldn’t pick up in the incredibly confusing instructions. First, I could make the letters drop faster. The default speed was mind numbingly slow. Second, I could move the letters around in the tray, a la Scrabble style. So instead of identifying words in the dropping letters, it became more of a strategy and probability game. I could choose some letters thinking that I had a high probability of using them in a word (different letters have different point value, so is a bit of a gamble — play it safe and run out of time, or go for the big points but possibly go bust!?) and then change my mind about what word to make as the letters continue to drop. As a result of this serendipitous discovery, Durion kept me occupied for a good hour straight.

Survival score: 30-60 minute sessions.

Crossword Light and Crux Crosswords

I am not a serious crossword puzzler. But I really like the ones that hit at the sweet spot of being challenging without being exasperating. And a bonus when they have interesting words that people might actually use (granted, provided they have large vocabularies). There are dozens of crossword apps out there, but many are for serious crossworders, or those who want to download puzzles from their favorite publications (like the NYT). Because I don’t need that, Crossword Light and Crux are great. Each comes with a healthy number of puzzles (a few dozen each), divided into different levels of difficulty. The easy ones are not too easy, and the hard ones are not too hard. Everything within my range. Each has an option to “check” or to “reveal” either a cell or a clue or the whole puzzle. If you “check” (which I do a few times a puzzle) then every wrong letter is marked with a red tick in the corner. I like that. I like Crossword Light’s puzzles a bit more, and Crux’s interface a bit more (e.g., it removes items from the clue list if you filled in the word). But I definitely recommend either one. Crossword Light is free, Crux Crosswords I picked up on sale for a buck. If you buy the paid version of Crossword Light, you can download puzzles from different publications.

Survival Score: Permanent place

Crossword Light and Crux Crosswords

I am not a serious crossword puzzler. But I really like the ones that hit at the sweet spot of being challenging without being exasperating. And a bonus when they have interesting words that people might actually use (granted, provided they have large vocabularies). There are dozens of crossword apps out there, but many are for serious crossworders, or those who want to download puzzles from their favorite publications (like the NYT). Because I don’t need that, Crossword Light and Crux are great. Each comes with a healthy number of puzzles (a few dozen each), divided into different levels of difficulty. The easy ones are not too easy, and the hard ones are not too hard. Everything within my range. Each has an option to “check” or to “reveal” either a cell or a clue or the whole puzzle. If you “check” (which I do a few times a puzzle) then every wrong letter is marked with a red tick in the corner. I like that. I like Crossword Light’s puzzles a bit more, and Crux’s interface a bit more (e.g., it removes items from the clue list if you filled in the word). But I definitely recommend either one. Crossword Light is free, Crux Crosswords I picked up on sale for a buck. If you buy the paid version of Crossword Light, you can download puzzles from different publications.

Survival Score: Permanent place

Control Craft and Control Craft 2

My son tells me games like Control Craft are called “real time strategy’ games. I’m not quite sure what that means, but strategy is definitely at the core of what I like Control Craft. It’s basically you against 1 or 2 computer opponents. You each have 1 or 2 outposts. These outposts create — “spawn” — soldiers and hold onto them until your dispatch them to another outpost (either all of once or half of them) to capture it. Then those captured outposts make even more soldiers. Eventually, you have to battle the enemy over an outpost, taking it over with the sheer number of soldiers you throw at it. You win the round when you have captured all of the outposts (or, you lose the level when you have no outposts left). The pacing is a little slow, plodding even…must be all the equipment the soldier have to carry. There is nice variety — soldiers can fly from some outposts, and some create double sized super-soldiers. There are defensive towers that zap you until you capture them, and some outposts create soldiers faster than others do. Gameplay is the same in both the original and the sequel. HOWEVER, the first I rate 5 starts and the second only 4, because there are levels in the second that I found impossible to even come close to winning…the strategy there, I think, is that the game developers want to capture your money…you need to put down real cash to purchase special weapons. A buck for 1 measly bomb? Well, forget that. I just won’t play those last 3 levels!

Survival score: Played all the way through, several hours.

Control Craft and Control Craft 2

My son tells me games like Control Craft are called “real time strategy’ games. I’m not quite sure what that means, but strategy is definitely at the core of what I like Control Craft. It’s basically you against 1 or 2 computer opponents. You each have 1 or 2 outposts. These outposts create — “spawn” — soldiers and hold onto them until your dispatch them to another outpost (either all of once or half of them) to capture it. Then those captured outposts make even more soldiers. Eventually, you have to battle the enemy over an outpost, taking it over with the sheer number of soldiers you throw at it. You win the round when you have captured all of the outposts (or, you lose the level when you have no outposts left). The pacing is a little slow, plodding even…must be all the equipment the soldier have to carry. There is nice variety — soldiers can fly from some outposts, and some create double sized super-soldiers. There are defensive towers that zap you until you capture them, and some outposts create soldiers faster than others do. Gameplay is the same in both the original and the sequel. HOWEVER, the first I rate 5 starts and the second only 4, because there are levels in the second that I found impossible to even come close to winning…the strategy there, I think, is that the game developers want to capture your money…you need to put down real cash to purchase special weapons. A buck for 1 measly bomb? Well, forget that. I just won’t play those last 3 levels!

Survival score: Played all the way through, several hours.

Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull HD

Though PC gamers might be jaded to this, I thought it was so cool that this game had actors portray characters….10 or so… And deliver answers to a bunch of questions. This in addition to the typical hidden object elements…a diary, a set of clues, mini puzzles, etc. Also a plus is that the hint system is not cheesy. The story is also really good, with an ending I did not expect at all. You are called to investigate a disappearance in a small town in the bayou, an old pirate legend is involved, the requisite voodoo, and other southern stereotypes. The puzzles are plentiful, and often very clever, instead of the same old variations on the same old themes. A downside is that you can’t choose to get the info in text form, and if you miss what one of the characters says, you can’t get them to repeat it. So, make sure your husband doesn’t start talking to you during a video clip, and that you have your earphones in if you want to play the game in bed when your husband wants to sleep.

Oh, and when you think the game is over, it isn’t! There is at least 1 more hour more. I will say nothing more!

Survival score: Straight through, a few long nights.

Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull HD

Though PC gamers might be jaded to this, I thought it was so cool that this game had actors portray characters….10 or so… And deliver answers to a bunch of questions. This in addition to the typical hidden object elements…a diary, a set of clues, mini puzzles, etc. Also a plus is that the hint system is not cheesy. The story is also really good, with an ending I did not expect at all. You are called to investigate a disappearance in a small town in the bayou, an old pirate legend is involved, the requisite voodoo, and other southern stereotypes. The puzzles are plentiful, and often very clever, instead of the same old variations on the same old themes. A downside is that you can’t choose to get the info in text form, and if you miss what one of the characters says, you can’t get them to repeat it. So, make sure your husband doesn’t start talking to you during a video clip, and that you have your earphones in if you want to play the game in bed when your husband wants to sleep.

Oh, and when you think the game is over, it isn’t! There is at least 1 more hour more. I will say nothing more!

Survival score: Straight through, a few long nights.

Blind World

Blind World is like those “invisible picture” coloring books that we used to get as a treat as a kid. The ones that you “colored” using a paintbrush dipped in water and a picture would magically appear. In this game, you are a small disc that glides across the screen. You move around by tilting the ipad (or stay still by holding the ipad level). When you start each level, it is just the disk and a blank screen, but as you move around, you bump into surfaces. You roll your disc along the surface to reveal more of it. Some of those surfaces are stationary, some move around as you do. The surfaces are made up of lots and lots of many colored blotches, and as your disc moves over them, it changes color too. And each time the color changes, the game makes a little “ping” sound, like wind chimes. The “objective” is to uncover 100% of the hidden image, though you are allowed to move to the next level before that. More of a game than an experience, very relaxing.

Survival Score: Savored it to make it last.

Blind World

Blind World is like those “invisible picture” coloring books that we used to get as a treat as a kid. The ones that you “colored” using a paintbrush dipped in water and a picture would magically appear. In this game, you are a small disc that glides across the screen. You move around by tilting the ipad (or stay still by holding the ipad level). When you start each level, it is just the disk and a blank screen, but as you move around, you bump into surfaces. You roll your disc along the surface to reveal more of it. Some of those surfaces are stationary, some move around as you do. The surfaces are made up of lots and lots of many colored blotches, and as your disc moves over them, it changes color too. And each time the color changes, the game makes a little “ping” sound, like wind chimes. The “objective” is to uncover 100% of the hidden image, though you are allowed to move to the next level before that. More of a game than an experience, very relaxing.

Survival Score: Savored it to make it last.

Amazing Breaker HD

There are many, many levels of this game. I stopped playing after several dozen. I was going to stop earlier, except that the best part of each level is the very beginning, when you get get to see what the image will be for that level. The images are incredible — clever, imaginative, beautifully illustrated. The idea is that they are made out of ice (or glass, I suppose), and you fling different things at them, which then explode, destroying part of the image. The object of the game is to blow up the entire image. You can play each level over as many times as you need too — I got most of the levels on one try (the apple was a real trick, though). The levels are actually pretty easy overall, and it’s a non-violent target game, which makes it great for kids.

Survival score: A very pleasurable couple of hours

Amazing Breaker HD

There are many, many levels of this game. I stopped playing after several dozen. I was going to stop earlier, except that the best part of each level is the very beginning, when you get get to see what the image will be for that level. The images are incredible — clever, imaginative, beautifully illustrated. The idea is that they are made out of ice (or glass, I suppose), and you fling different things at them, which then explode, destroying part of the image. The object of the game is to blow up the entire image. You can play each level over as many times as you need too — I got most of the levels on one try (the apple was a real trick, though). The levels are actually pretty easy overall, and it’s a non-violent target game, which makes it great for kids.

Survival score: A very pleasurable couple of hours

Air Hockey by accelerato

Air hockey is one of those games that my husband will sometimes play with me when we come across a table and I whine and pout until he gives on. Ok, it’s not quite that bad, BUT. A true air hockey partner is hard to find. Accelerato managed to create an AI opponent that looks and acts like the real thing. The other controller doesn’t just sit there, it moves around, follows the puck the way a real player would, sometimes hits hard and sometimes soft, sometimes banks and sometimes hits straight ahead. Even taps the puck over the middle line like it can’t quite reach the middle of the table. It’s awesome! The pick moves realistically, with adequate inertia. There are multiple levels of difficulty. The controller follows your finger almost flawlessly.

Survival mode: permanent place so I can always get my fix.

Air Hockey by accelerato

Air hockey is one of those games that my husband will sometimes play with me when we come across a table and I whine and pout until he gives on. Ok, it’s not quite that bad, BUT. A true air hockey partner is hard to find. Accelerato managed to create an AI opponent that looks and acts like the real thing. The other controller doesn’t just sit there, it moves around, follows the puck the way a real player would, sometimes hits hard and sometimes soft, sometimes banks and sometimes hits straight ahead. Even taps the puck over the middle line like it can’t quite reach the middle of the table. It’s awesome! The pick moves realistically, with adequate inertia. There are multiple levels of difficulty. The controller follows your finger almost flawlessly.

Survival mode: permanent place so I can always get my fix.