Game review: Artist Colony

Since we were snowed in all weekend, I decided to waste some time playing Artist Colony. It looked a lot like Virtual Villagers. Since I really enjoyed that series, this should be fun too, right? Well, it's mostly fun. As with most simulation games, there is a set of goals that the characters need to finish. The story is about a group of artists coming together to rebuild an old artists' colony. (There's a backstory about friendship and love, but it's not really all that necessary to the game play.) You get money to complete tasks by selling the artists' works. Since you begin with only two artists, it's a little difficult to raise money. However, once you start attracting new artists to the colony, things can really get moving. Then it ends up being a little difficult to keep track of everyone. On top of that, I found myself getting bored with the tedious task of training the artist and having them create masterpieces to sell. Perhaps if the selling part went a little faster, the creating part wouldn't be so dull. As it was, I ended up with artists that couldn't create anything because I filled up my gallery yet no one was coming to buy anything.

Overall, it was a decent game. There were little annoyances, but I could easily overlook them. If nothing else, I wanted to see what the end result was.

Game review: Princess Isabella - A Witch's Curse

It's been awhile since my daughter and I played a video game together. We decided to give Princess Isabella: A Witch's Curse a try. You play Princess Isabella. She has been away and, when she returns, she finds the castle under an evil spell with all of the people locked inside mirrors. The princess needs to find who is behind the evil, while rescuing her family.

Big Fish Games has classified this as a hidden object game. However, it is so much more. Each room has a number of puzzles contained within. Some of them are hidden object but others are jigsaw puzzles or areas where you need to use an object you are holding in order to open the next area of the room or 'trivia' questions. We found this to be a great game because, while there are some areas that my daughter could do by herself, there were also areas that I needed to do by myself or that we needed to work on together. It was a great way to spend a few hours with my kid. I highly recommend it to any parents wanting a little extra time with the little one. (And by 'little one,' I mean in the 6 - 10 age range...)

Game review: Mr Jones' Graveyard Shift

When I saw the title of this game, I knew I had to play it. Something called Mr Jones' Graveyard Shift would either be awesome or awful. It turns out that it is a time management game. You play as Mr. Jones, owner of the local graveyard. Your job is to fill your customers' requests for their loved ones' funerals. Some want specific flowers, some don't want trees...there's a lot that they ask for, but, the gameplay for each is pretty much the same.

I actually had to play the game twice. The first time, I screwed up royally and had to start over. The second time, I figured out where I messed up and made sure to not make the same mistake again. That is when the fun kicked in. I didn't think I would actually enjoy arranging funerals. After all, it's a rather morbid thought. But it was lots of fun. At the very least, it's a good Halloween game!

Game review: Magic Encyclopedia: Moon Light

Over the weekend, I took some time out to play Magic Encyclopedia: Moon Light. I figured it would be a typical hidden object game that wouldn't require a lot of thought. Man, was I wrong! Each hidden object in the game comes in pieces. You have to find all of the pieces for each object. Then, where normal games would just mark off that you found that item, you have to use the item to find the rest of the list. For example, you have to find all the pieces of a key to open a chest that will hold a piece of another item. It makes the gameplay a lot more interesting since you have to figure out which is the first object you need to find all the pieces for and where to use it. I had tons of fun playing this game. I think I'll be buying it in the near 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!