29 March 2010

Playing Lots of Casual Games

For some reason, I've been seized by the desire to play casual games. I've played a bit of Bejeweled or Zuma in the past for about 10 minutes at a time, but this month I've been coming home from work and playing games for hours. These games are much cheaper than they used to be and definitely less expensive than games for consoles like the Wii. Casual games once started at about $20 a game but now you can find many of them for $6-$8 each or playable online for free.

Bejeweled Blitz: I am obsessed with this game and wish that it was available somewhere other than Facebook. It is the same match-3 game that everyone knows, but the twist is that you are trying to get the highest score you can in one minute. You compare your scores only with the people in your friends list, which gives the game that old-school feeling of trying to get your initials to the top of the high-score list on a machine at the neighborhood arcade. The scores are reset once a week, so everyone gets a chance to be the champion. The one-minute time limit makes me keep saying "just one more game" and I end up playing it for two hours! It would be even more fun for me if this game was available in a few other venues where I have friends that might actually play.

Valerie Porter and the Scarlet Scandal: This is the first hidden-object game that I've played all the way through, and it has changed my opinion of them. I got a couple of these games for my kids when they first started popping up online. I thought of them as digital versions of the pages in Highlights magazine. However, hidden-object games have evolved into the kernel that a story or adventure game is built around, and Valerie Porter is a good example of that. The premise is that Valerie Porter is a cub reporter in the 1920s working on her first big story, the murder of an actress. The graphics are attractive and the puzzles are just challenging enough to keep the story moving. I could see a fan of those cozy mystery novels playing this game.

Penny Dreadfuls -- Sweeney Todd: This game ups the difficulty a few notches. There are a LOT of items to find in each hidden-object screen, and the puzzles in between are a challenge. I had to look for hints several times. The game is based on the dime novel version of the Sweeney Todd story, not the musical, so it may have a different ending than you expect.

Azada: I'm still in the middle of this game. It is like Myst (character trapped in a book) with more recognizable puzzles. I played Myst back in the day and I welcomed having that experience again with puzzles that actually have instructions! If you like variety, this game is for you. There are matchstick, sudoku, memory match, and even dots puzzles. The one aspect I find frustrating is that the puzzles come in sets and you have about 35 minutes to finish every puzzle in the set. If you get stuck on a particular puzzle (sudoku sucks!) then you have to do the whole set again. Still, I would recommend this game to a person who thinks she would get bored doing the same type of puzzle over and over.

Farm Frenzy - Pizza Party: I don't even know why I am playing this game. It is one of those time management games like Diner Dash -- certain tasks around the screen have different time tables, some tasks have to be done before others, and the whole schedule becomes more hectic as you get to the higher levels. Once I realized that these games are pretty much about clicking, I decided I didn't need to play any new ones that are released. Yet, here I am, letting Farm Frenzy suck away several hours of my weekend. I think the key to keeping me engaged with this game is that the designers included a "best time" for each level. Having a time to beat added more interest for me.

I go through phases with games, so I'm sure I will burn out on the casual genre soon and start craving a good card game. Right now, though, I've got to go make a Farm Frenzy pizza!

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