Game review: The Lost Cases of 221B Baker St.

While I was waiting for my laundry to finish yesterday, I decided to give one of the Sherlock Holmes hidden object games a go. Usually these are a little more difficult for a lazy Sunday afternoon, but I had faith that I could finish these puzzles without using my brain too much. I ended up being very surprised at what was presented to me. Instead of one big case you are trying to solve, The Lost Cases of 221B Baker St. is a collection of multiple smaller cases. In the sixty minute time frame of the demo, I was able to finish four different cases. Each case had similar yet different aspects. They each had a hidden object section, a puzzle section, and a memory section. The hidden object section was where you found your clues and, generally, one clue is messed up. This is where the puzzle section comes in. Sometimes you are piecing together a ripped up piece of paper; sometimes you are trying to slide a rock piece out of a box...each one is different. After you have found all of your clues, you move onto the memory section, where you figure out who is the suspect. Each suspect is attributed to a clue and it is your job to remember which clue goes to which suspect. You need to pick out the clue that has changed to eliminate that suspect.

I found the game much more interesting than other Sherlock Holmes games. There is usually a lot more exposition, which limits your actual game time. With this game, you can actually choose to play a version that has less dialogue. I prefer to get down to the game, myself. I can't wait to buy the full version of this game to see what the other cases have to offer.

Game review: Alice in Wonderland

A few months ago, I reviewed an Alice in Wonderland themed time management game. Despite how difficult that game was, I gave into my love for all things Alice and tried the hidden object Alice in Wonderland game. While the storyline wasn't quite Alice in Wonderland, it was very similar. Your character recently purchased a new house. In the basement, you find a portal to another world. In one of the rooms upstairs, you find a newspaper article about some missing girls. Much to your surprise, you find one of the missing girls in the other world! It is up to you to travel to the strange world and save all of the missing girls.

As should be expected from a Wonderland game, this isn't just a plain hidden object game. Some of the objects need to be put together before you can use them. Some of the parts for these 'bigger' objects aren't even in the same room. However, you do get slight hints when that happens. (The items turn red when you aren't in the same room as the object.) This makes the game a little more difficult, yet not so difficult that it is annoying. There are also a few mini-games - letters that need to be pieced together or gears that need to be lined up. (I fully admit that I sucked at the gears and frequently skipped that part.)

I love when games add little things like these to separate them from the run of the mill games. And I love it even more when they do it well enough to make the game fun and interesting instead of aggravating. I had tons of fun playing and I think you will too.

Game review: Alice's Teacup Madness

In an attempt get myself geared up for Tim Burton's "Alice," I loaded up Alice's Teacup Madness from Big Fish Games. Of course, Alice is back in Wonderland. This time she has to earn some money to get back home. (Yes, I know it is a rather ridiculous plot. Bear with me.) The White Rabbit sets her up with a tea shop so she can brew up some of the best tea in Wonderland. The similarities between this game and Cake Mania are painfully obvious right from the beginning. However, Alice tries to up the difficulty level. Instead of being able to carry more than one item at a time, you can drag your mouse across the 'set up area.' For example, if you need strawberries put on two teacups, you click on the strawberry then drag it across both cups. The problem comes when you try to serve the tea. Alice still can't carry more than one thing at a time! So if you have three customers waiting for their order, you need to run back and forth to get it. Alice should be able to carry at least two teacups or baked items at once to make it easier on herself!

On top of that, there are three different types of cups, three different types of tea, and at least two different types of tea toppings. That doesn't even take the baked items into account! Adding all of these different combinations to Alice's lack of waitressing skills, the game is a little too difficult for its own good. Yes, the beginning levels are very easy, as they should be. It's when you get to the higher levels that you realize how messed up everything is.

Game review: Keys to Manhattan

A couple of days ago, my daughter asked if we could play a hidden object game together. Since I love spending time with her, I agreed. She chose Keys to Manhattan. In the game, you are Emily, an artist trying to save her childhood home. Her uncle, who she lived with after her parents died, has gone missing as well. As Emily, you have to track down the items needed to restore the house, as well as try to find her uncle.

After playing so many extremely difficult hidden object games, I was hoping that this one would be easy enough for my daughter to play. Many times you can't tell the difference between a 'family' hidden object game (where the puzzles are easy enough for the kids to play with their family members) and an 'adult' hidden object game (where you pretty much have to have ESP in order to find some of the items). Luckily, Keys to Manhattan came through for us. Not only were the hidden object puzzles adequately suited to a multi-player game, there were also parts of the house that needed to be aligned with their outlines in the house. We both had tons of fun playing and I hope to see more games like this in the future.

Game review: Wedding Dash: Ready, Aim, Love

Almost exactly one year ago, I talked about Wedding Dash 2: Rings Around The World. Another sequel, Wedding Dash 3: Ready, Aim, Love, has appeared on the scene. This time around, Quinn pairs up with Cupid to plan some weddings in some interesting settings. Unfortunately, this game is exactly like its predecessor. There have only been tiny changes, which barely make a dent in the gameplay. For example, you have the option to hire a few of Cupid's angels to help Flo serve the guests. (Yes, instead of a stand-alone waitress, it's poor Flo doing the hard work for you.) Quinn still has to pay attention to the guests themselves as one will frequently lose her yappy dog and Cupid has a tendency to knock over the presents. So, if you enjoyed the second edition of the Wedding Dash family, you'll definitely enjoy this one.

Game review: Jane's Zoo

In late 2008, Realore Studios released a couple of "Jane" games. First there was Jane's Hotel, which kinda sucked. The company built upon that to make the sequel, Jane's Hotel; Family Hero much better. But then they took a step backwards with Jane's Realty. The latest Jane game, Jane's Zoo was released in June of this year. I took some time to play it last night to see how this version has changed dear Jane.

It's a little weird to see our hotel hero taking over caring for animals at a zoo, but people do make life changes every day. Maybe Jane got tired of the hotel/realty biz. Despite the weird setting, the gameplay is actually quite a lot of fun. The first level starts out really easy, which is as it should be. There are two animals that you need to feed and care for. Once you get the hang of things though, you get more animals and more things to do with the animals. By the end of the first level, you'll have four animals that will need feeding, bathing, exercise, and wellness visits. Not to mention that your handy helper has to water the grass in the enclosures, clean up the trash, and fix the animals' houses. While it sounds like a ton of stuff to do, you don't really get overwhelmed with the amount of work. The workload is nicely balance so the frustration level stays low.

In addition, there are mini-games where you are finding trash in forest locations. After you complete the mini-game, you have the option to upgrade your workers. Yes, the worker upgrades (how fast they can work, etc.) are completely separate from the zoo upgrades. You buy upgrades for the zoo with the money you win after completing each section of the main level. The worker upgrades come from the mini-games. And since the mini-games only come a couple of times each level, you aren't ending up with overpowered workers. They are gaining new skills at a decent pace.

I really enjoyed playing Jane's Zoo. Even more, I'm happy that the series has finally managed to find a good theme that is balanced and fun. I hope that Realore is able to keep it up!

Game review: Diner Town Tycoon

I really wanted to get the memory of Mr. Biscuits out of my head. So I downloaded Diner Town Tycoon. Diner Dash has rarely let me down. And this is no different. Well, I lie. The gameplay is completely different, but it's much more enjoyable! Instead of waiting on tables, you are trying to stop the evil Grub Burger from taking over your town. You start off with one restaurant, where you control what dishes are being served and how much they cost. It is your job to make sure you have enough ingredients for each dish so you can feed the hungry hoards that populate your town. As you try to keep your restaurant afloat, there are daily goals for you to accomplish. With each goal reached, Grub Burger loses their hold on the people.

I found myself completely mesmerized by Diner Dash Tycoon. I expected the traditional 'run around serving tables' game, but was surprised by how different and innovative this version was. There was a little bit of Diner Dash (each customer has specific tastes) mixed with a little bit of the 'Tycoon' games (the game view looks over the town as a whole instead of focusing on one business). If only I had more thumbs to put up for it!

Game review: Mr. Biscuits: The Case of the Ocean Pearl

It's been quite some time since I've played a hidden object game. I really was hoping that the time away from them would refresh my mind and save me from the tedious task the developers continue to present. Unfortunately, Mr. Biscuits: The Case of the Ocean Pearl is truly an awful game. The actual hidden object part isn't too bad. However, in order to progress the storyline, you need to find a mini Mr. Biscuits (a dog) in each scene. If you don't find him, you don't get the next clue to solve the murder of the dog's owner. It truly is annoying. I had hoped that the dog would be a cute little Scooby-Doo-type addition. Sadly, it is not. You can just skip right past this one.

Game review: Detective Stories: Hollywood

Considering I'm a big fan of movies and a huge fan of hidden object games, I figured that Detective Stories: Hollywood would be a shoo-in for a good review. Sadly, it is not. The hidden object aspects of the game are pretty good. A lot of them revolve around trying to find and match an object to its outline. It's slightly more difficult than finding items on a list but it makes the game more interesting. Where the game lacks is the mini-games in between the hidden object parts. I am still stuck on a game that I can't solve and I can't pass. More than anything, I find this extremely frustrating. If a developer wants to add these mini-games to make the overall game more interesting, fine, but code in a work-around too. I'm sure I'm not the only one that sucks at those types of puzzles.

Otherwise, it's a pretty nice game. Too bad the mini-games ruined it.

Game review: The Hidden Object Show: Season 2

Last year, I panned The Hidden Object Show game. I think someone, somewhere must have been listening because the Season 2 version is much better. No longer are you scouring dark shadows for objects. (Well, maybe once in awhile but not nearly as often as you were before.) The overall premise of being on a game show is still a little annoying. However, the rest of the game is pretty fun so it's easy to overlook the rest. Just mute the gameshow host and everything will be dandy!