Best Undownloadable Games for under $20

December 20, 2006

Beyond Good and EvilChristmas is on Monday. Today’s your LAST chance to get anything by Dec. 22 if you order from Amazon. So get your last minute on-line shopping done and over with. Here’s my suggestion of fun, yet amazingly cheap, games playable on any home or handheld console. (In no particular order, might I add).

Escape from Monkey Island — Windows ($19 from Amazon Sellers)

This jewel case version for Windows (it works on XP, if anyone’s wondering, although it’s made for older versions) is a little wonky with the controls, but still has that genuine Monkey Island humor to it. You play as Guybrush Threepwood (Mighty Pirate) as he wanders (erm… sails) through the Caribbean trying to bring his wife back from being legally declared dead. And other mishaps leads him back to that place he was before: Monkey Island. Fun all around.

Sidenote: Okay, fanboys, eat me up now, since I know you think this is the worst of the Monkey Island series. Read the rest of this entry »

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Take this ticket to ride

December 11, 2006

ticketfuzzy.jpgMost times, board games translated into ones and zeroes don’t turn out so hot. Case in point: any console Monopoly game and The Game of Life for PC. But Days of Wonder, a prominent card and board game maker, managed to do with their javascript games that companies like Parker Brothers have not: made them engaging. Currently, I tend to play “Ticket to Ride.”

ticketcardsfuzzy.jpgBasically, you try to claim as much of the available train track as you can. Okay, no. That’s pointless. You have to make very long continuous tracks while connecting destinations on ticket cards. Ticket cards ask you to go from city to city. In the USA version, it could be anything from a ticket pointing you on a route from Los Angeles to New York or one that requires a quick jaunt from New York to Miami. While the more ambitious ticket choices have higher point values, if you fail to connect the dots, the points are deducted from your score.

You can only set down trains if you have card colors that match the track colors and if you have the right number of cards to claim the track. Locomotives are like wildcards (I guess not all trains need them?), so they can be any color.

Of course, while you’re trying to hoard enough purple cards and locomotives in order to claim that long stretch of railway between two cities, someone might take it before you. Yes, I’ve cringed a few times at the computer screen when a fellow player (probably sitting pretty behind his computer console in some place interesting like New York or Paris) took my much needed route from Point A to Point B.

The game challenges its players to plan multiple routes for their trains so they don’t get trapped without a railway to their destination point. Or, and this has happened to me more often, I ran out of train cars. That’s right–you only get a limited number of cars to work with, and once someone has only one or two left, the game cycles into its last turn. Because of this, creative thinking is a must-have quality in the game.

By itself, the game is a great javascript version and will only take about 45 minutes to an hour of your time. An account on the Days of Wonder site is free. However, the folks at Days of Wonder hope it will entice you enough to buy the board game.

happy.jpgWhether or not you wish to invest in the actual, real-live board game (do they still make those these days?) you should definitely check out Ticket to Ride. It’s enjoyable, and, dare I say it? Fun.


The Free MMO Game

December 6, 2006

After an excruciatingly long download of “Maple Story,” I excitedly booted it up, made my cute character, and happily slicedmaplestory.jpg away at snails.  But five minutes in, I got bored.  Perhaps it’s my lack of game savviness.  Perhaps it’s my complte lack of an attention span.  It’s probably because I didn’t have the patience to get to the community aspect of the game. Whatever it is, I did not have a great time playing it.

I can’t imagine leveling up my character for no reason.  If anyone has any good things to say about Maple Story (or any other free MMO game), please leave a comment.  I feel like I’m missing the point of these games.


Board Games: A Thing of the Past?

December 1, 2006

cranium.jpgWith all of this new-fangled technology, will there still be a place for board games in coming years? I sure hope so. There is a certain dynamic that is lost when people play in front of a television screen or a computer screen. It’s a very solitary process, really. Even if players are chatting with faceless users halfway across the world, that doesn’t mean they’re building personal relationships that will last.

Yes, I know. Despite the fact that this blog is undeniably about gaming, you probably now have me pegged as one of those highly offensive people who think anyone who spends any amount of time in front of a computer screen should rot in some kind of insanity ward. But that’s not it.

Over the thanksgiving break, I stayed at my boyfriend’s roommate’s (complicated, stick with me now) home because boyfriend and I are currently displaced by thousands of miles. We played many games there. Of course, we dabbled in four-man Halo battles (which turned into a “Let’s shoot Joy because she doesn’t know how to play!” fiasco) and even broke out the N-64 to play a rousing game of Mario Kart.

However, most of the time we played old-fashioned board games. The camaraderie that came from that was far better than the curse words that we flung at each other during Halo. Sure, there was competition, but, for the most part, we laughed at the silly answers people wrote down in Scattegories and allowed some decidedly questionable words to slip through the cracks in Scrabble.

Mostly, board games bring people together in a way that seems lacking in many video games. Don’t get me wrong–I love playing Mario Party with my family. But, for some reason, Cranium makes us laugh louder and more often. Until video games catches up with that sense of belonging, I’m not ready to chuck my Monopoly set just yet.

This was my generally long-winded way of saying that I’ll start covering games outside of the video game realm. They will not overtake the whole blog, mind you, or even a large portion.  Just an occasional post or two on those “old-school” games we used to play.  Like Mafia and the like.


Interrupting reviews to examine the next-gen systems

November 20, 2006

Here’s my PS3-Wii article for everyone.  I haven’t touched a console since I left home.  How sad.  Anyhow, here are my two cents.  Or two half cents.  Which equals a cent.  So I guess that means here are my cent.  Here is my cent.  Yes.  There it is.  Okay, will stop babbling now.

Anyhow, the PS3 (and Xbox 360, if we’re going to compare all of the so-called next-gen systems) is like the brawny cousin.  It can run so many gigs in a second and can do lightning-fast backflips to boot.  The Wii is the picked-on little brother that can do pretty neat tricks, but people don’t think it can do much more than that.

Oh, wait.  What was important about them again?

What makes a system worth buying?  Games.

And quality games can come from large or small developers.  That’s something I’m trying to prove here.  You don’t have to be Ubisoft or Nintendo or Sony to release a good game.  You need imagination.  Drive.

And Guybrush.  Or maybe not Guybrush, but characters that can carry a game.  Or maybe I’m just old-fashioned in that sense.

For example, the Wii has Link, the stalwart, unspeaking hero that captured hearts from day one.  And by day one, I mean the very first Legend of Zelda game ever made.  We love him (except for that little hiccup that was Zelda CD).  Guys want to be that cool.  Girls wish their boyfriends were that cool (or, they want to be that cool, too.  Who doesn’t want to master the great Link stare?).

And then there’s gameplay.  Yes, Wii gameplay is original.  But when will it stop being a novelty and start being an essential part of a developer’s ideas? Or is the controller better?

In any case, I guess all that I’m saying is that the only thing that will be important in gaming for this generation is the games themselves.  That’s it. Not processing speed or a fancy new way to play.  Just the way the developers utilize it.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

(You’ll be returned to your regularly scheduled blog now…)