24 June 2013

Papa Pear Saga: Cutest ball shooter I've played

As I said in the title to this post, Papa Pear Saga (free, Facebook) is the cutest ball shooter I've played. I'm not really sure if "ball shooter" is the proper term, but it is descriptive. It is one of those games where you aim your balls at a certain area of the screen to clear out other balls or obstacles. Some shoot from the bottom up or, like Papa Pear Saga, from the top down. There are plenty games in this genre, but this one stands out as one I would rather play over the others.

Of course, the fun graphics were the first element of the game that grabbed me. When it comes to casual games you have a lot of games that are almost identical in gameplay, so it really is a matter of picking the game that is the prettiest. Papa Pear Saga has a bright and colorful look that reminds me of children's television. I especially like the way the pots that you are aiming for hold their hands up as if they are saying, "Me! Me!"

The gameplay is what I'm starting to think of as a signature of King.com's "Saga" games. They seem to be generic games at first glance but after a couple levels you are introduced to goals. I haven't gotten too far in Papa Pear Saga, but so far I've had to clear carrots and release fruit to fall into pots. I know from playing Candy Crush Saga and Farm Heroes Saga that King throws in something new right about the time that you think you've seen all there is in the game.

Right now this game is only available to play online, but I've read that King might release it for iOS and Android. I didn't really get into Candy Crush Saga until they released it for the mobile platforms, and I expect it will be the same with Papa Pear Saga.

21 June 2013

Hay Day: All Farming, All the Time

There are a few games that I continue to play out of habit. I'm not having much fun with them, but I can't bear to delete them because I've already spent time building the farm or the hotel or the neighborhood. Hay Day is one of those games. It is a rather popular farming sim  (free, iOS only) that has all the usual elements. You can grow crops, raise animals, and make items from their byproducts. That's it. There aren't any special events for the holidays or a change of scenery for the seasons. It is just all farming, all the time.

Hay Day reminds me of the wordless picture books I used to check out for my eldest daughter when she was a toddler. Most farming games have at least a flimsy story to give you a reason for why you are trying to expand your farm. Not only does Hay Day dispense with the plot, but it uses as few words as possible to get its point across. There is a bulletin board with orders for you to fill, and each order just has pictures of the food and a number for how many to grow. That is as close as the game gets to having quests. Because of this, the game quickly became repetitive to me.

Like most casual games these days, there is supposed to be a social aspect to Hay Day but to me it is limited. You can add your Facebook friends who are playing the game and visit their farms, but I couldn't find anything to do other than buy the produce my friend had on sale. There is supposed to be a way to help my friends on their farms, but the one time I found something to click on (a boat) I couldn't figure out what to do because there wasn't an explanation.

I suppose there is a meditative quality to Hay Day that keeps me coming back. The graphics are cutesy yet soothing when I am playing right before bed. The animations for the animals make me smile, as well. So far the pigs are my favorite, especially with their sauna that squeezes the bacon out of them. However, after a month of playing, I think I've gotten all I am going to get out of this game.

18 June 2013

GOG.com's Summer Sale

It hit me a couple months ago that I finally own a PC that is fast enough to play some of the video games that were hot a few years ago. I also discovered that many of these games are fairly inexpensive now, especially from the direct-download sites. So while I was listening to a podcast where the presenters were reminiscing about older games, I took my browser for a little cruise over to GOG.com. What on earth did I do that for? They are running a summer sale, and my budget is tighter than an 1890s corset right now :-(.

GOG has 500 games for sale between now and 05 Jul, but they aren't all on sale at once. For instance, the Alan Wake bundle was on sale for $4.48 when I went, but there were only nine hours left to get that price. That is 90% off of the original price. There were several other games that were 50% off.

If you like older games, I'm sure you will find something cool. This is not a paid endorsement; I'm just really happy that I found this site. We've never bought games as soon as they were released, so my kids don't pay much attention to whether a game is new or old. I may have to check the couch pillows to see if I can get them a game or two to keep them occupied while school is out.

16 June 2013

Making video games a family experience

My husband ABM isn't into really into video games, but he will occasionally find a casual game that tickle his fancy and get obsessed with it for a while. His current obsession is Candy Crush Saga and he has dragged the family along with him. We've joined him happily, of course. The kids love it when their father steps into their world, so if he meets them halfway by finding a game he likes they will definitely join him.

Many adults complain that video games are an experience that isolates the participant, but I haven't seen that very much in our house. Candy Crush Saga is not a multi-player game but we treat it that way. We don't compare scores or how many stars we've gotten on each level, but we are all trying to race to the highest level. This isn't done in a cut-throat manner, however. Everyone is comparing playing tips with each other and giving each other tickets to open certain areas. This makes it feel like a group activity even though we aren't playing together on the same screen.

Another way that our family enjoys video games together is by playing single-player games as a group. We brainstorm on how to solve puzzles and pass the controller over to whoever is best at certain aspects of the game. Last month I started playing Red Dead Redemption on the Xbox with my daughter M and my son DJ. That game doesn't have many puzzles but there are actions such as herding the cows that I am not very good at, so my kids are more than happy to coach or take the controller and get me through a mission when my character has failed for the third or fourth time.

QUESTION: How does your family enjoy video games together?