15 July 2012

What we've been playing

We've never had much of an active lifestyle, but with the heat wave and me losing my job and my son recovering from surgery we have spent the summer vacation indoors. That means there has been more gaming going on, so here is a look at what we've been playing.

CARD GAMES: My kids dragged out the card games Dutch Blitz and Landlord. They even took the time to look up the play instructions online because I lost the instruction sheet a while back. That heartens me because I've been worrying about my kids' ability to entertain themselves. Their willingness to dig through the garage and play around with what they discover reminds me of my childhood summers living in the country with very little access to new entertainment sources. Another cool thing is seeing other kids from the neighborhood come over to our house and ask to play cards. I guess other parents don't buy card games. I have found that my kids won't ask for card games as gifts, but they are eager to play them when I buy them.

CONSOLE GAMES: My nephew has a souped-up Wii with all of his games saved on the hard drive so he doesn't have to carry discs around. He brought it over the last two weekends he stayed with us. The most notable games we played were Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy. I am accustomed to being the trivia and word game master among our family and friends -- so much so that we usually don't play those types of games. Let me tell you, I got schooled by my kids. Not only did they know more than I expected, but even on the questions they didn't know they were able to make good educated guesses. I look forward to playing more trivia games with them.

PC GAMES: Only my kids could turn a single-player hidden object game into a competition. M and C2 decided to start playing Grim Tales: The Bride at the same time and see who could finish it first.  It was no contest; C2 is the queen of hidden object games in this house. I can download a game for her in the morning and she will be done with it by bedtime.

My favorite form of gaming -- playing casual games online -- has taken a nosedive. The kids can't ever agree on what to watch on TV, so they spend a good part of the day streaming video on the various devices in the house. This makes it nearly impossible for me to play games on Facebook. I guess I'll have to wait until they go back to school to resume my normal online activities.

02 July 2012

Song Pop: A 21st-century version of Name That Tune

When I was in elementary school, I enjoyed the game show Name That Tune. Even at a young age I was pretty good at guessing songs. Now Freshplanet is bringing the fun of that game into the mobile gaming age with Song Pop. My kids and I have been playing it all afternoon with great gusto.

The game is so easy to jump into that there is no tutorial. You create a game with someone from either your Facebook list, your email contacts, or a random person. Then you pick a playlist like 90s Alternative or Modern Rap. After a quick 3-2-1 countdown, a clip of a song starts playing and you have to pick either the song title or the name of the artist from a list of four choices. There are five songs per round and then the challenge is sent to your opponent, who will try to identify those same five songs faster than you did. The person who had the fastest time overall wins that round.

Song Pop ticks several of the boxes on my mental list of characteristics I like in an app. It is cross-platform, so I can play with my friends whether they are on Facebook, Android, or iOS. It is a freemium game that is still fun even if I choose not to put a penny of real-world money into it because the coins you earn from each round can be saved up to unlock more playlists. One of my favorite characteristics is the ability to play a random opponent; so many casual games lose their allure for me because I can't get past a certain point if I don't have at least five friends who regularly play the game.

Even though you don't need to have a lot of friends playing this game, I think I could talk some of my non-gamer friends into playing this. I have found that among my pals there is a group that wouldn't go near an Xbox and finds Facebook games like Castleville boring, but they have 20 games of Words with Friends and Draw Something on the go at all times. Song Pop is the type of game that would appeal to them.