Bouncy Mouse Review

Bouncy Mouse Review

Mar 15, 2012

I don’t tend to play video games that are inherently frustrating. As mentioned, I’m usually playing during my commute and I like to keep my blood pressure down during a commute. It’s not that I want an easy, mindless game, more that I don’t want to feel so challenged that I throw my phone out the window. I love a game with balance between a challenge and ease of play, and I’m happy to have found that in Bouncy Mouse.

Bouncy Mouse is the story of mouse vs. cat. The hero mouse is on a quest to reclaim his stolen cheese from a mean cat. The cheese has been scattered along the way and is waiting to be reclaimed as the mouse passes. The cat has claimed the biggest cheese wheel for itself and the mouse must reach him to get it back.

The mouse navigate the board by swinging from point to point by his tail. The swing points are specific spots throughout the playing field and are placed with a specific route in mind. Users get the mouse from spot to spot by twanging him around like a slingshot. If he’s fired off close enough to the next point then his tail will catch it and suspend him there. Cheese is often hovering in the space between two points so the mouse can grab it as he makes his arcs through the air. Once he reaches the end and collided with the cat he has won the level. He does have to avoid bees and falling into water below, so it’s not a completely easy game. As well points are awarded based on what percentage of cheese was collected in each stage, so there is strategy needed too.

This game is adorable. The mouse is cute and cheerful, which I find very cheerful myself. I’ve gotten myself stuck in a few places, but patience helps me work it out, and I love it all the time. I also love that I’m able to move the game board around, to see my next goal and plan a course of action.

I don’t really have any complaints at all. I would recommend it wholeheartedly.

Jewel Towers Deluxe Review

Jewel Towers Deluxe Review

Mar 14, 2012

I think whether or not a game needs a plot is best determined on a case by case basis. Bejeweled has no story but is still wildly popular. But sometimes, a story or theme can help to revitalize a tried and true idea. In the case of Jewel Towers Deluxe it is my guess that this is the reason behind taking the classic jewel-matching game and giving it an Indiana Jones-esque story. But guess what, it works.

Jewel Towers Deluxe is the story of a grizzled adventurer on a quest to steal stones from an ancient, vaguely Aztec culture. There is a spirit guarding the stones, trying to prevent him from collecting them all. Each level assigns a number of each type of stone to be collected, and jewels must be collect in groups of three or more. Furthermore there is a limit to the number of moves that can be made during each level. Exceeding that limit means game over.

The game is interesting in that rather than swapping two adjacent stones, users rotate groups of three highlighted stones. This allows stone to be adjusted multiple times across the board, sometimes even moved from one end to the other to achieve a match. There obstacles in the form of rocks that can’t be matched, or jewels trapped in settings. At each level the game board changes shape for variety and greater challenge. Earning points also lets users buy power-ups in the form of spells. Spells are associated with specific jewels and can be activated when they specific jewel is captured on the board.

The adventurer theme is kind of cool because it adds a mild sense of drama that Bejeweled lacked. The Aztec mummy both taunts and guides users, and the colour scheme of the game gives it a strangely successful crypt-feel. I like the idea of rotating three stones at once, as it reminds me of one of my favourite games, Hexic. I find myself returning to this game fairly frequently.

Unfortunately it has horrendous control issues. The mechanics of moving the jewels requires that the highlighted bracket be moved users tapping it across the field. I should be able to tap anywhere on the board to highlight a bracket, instead of this time consuming process. Even more frustrating, the responsiveness of the game board is not great either and it can take multiple taps to move the bracket even one space. This is especially bad at the edges of the game board where it doesn’t seem to register input at all.

It needs a lot of work, and I urge the developers to put out some improvements soon. The game is fun, but frustration should come from a challenging game, not one that is physically difficult to use.

Ounce Bounce Review

Ounce Bounce Review

Mar 8, 2012

With some games it’s not too difficult to guess where the inspiration came from. Others are deliberately random, and that adds to their charm. And some are just sort of inexplicable and are attention-drawing in that way. Ounce Bounce falls into the last category, which is why I tried it out.

Ounce Bounce is the story of a young owl is undertaking flight-training when he accidentally topples backward into a well. The tiny crash-helmeted owl is trapped at the bottom underneath a vast field of strangely suspended debris. Users help him make his way back to the top. In his way are bricks and boards. When crashed into the boards will move slightly, and the bricks will explode for points. It’s an endurance game and Ounce is constantly fighting against gravity, trying to drift up to the top of the well and not falling back down to the bottom. Users help him by swiping their finger up along his path to send him up. Users can rebound him off of boards to gain height, or into bricks to blast a path. The longer Ounce is kept in the air, the higher the score.

It’s a cute game, and the idea is interesting. Crashing into the bricks is quite satisfying, and it’s fun to challenge myself to see how long I can keep Ounce going. But that’s really all I have to say that’s specifically positive.

Truth be told I just didn’t like this game very much. It’s weirdly slow and lackluster, and there is actually very little accuracy when controlling Ounce. He is such a tiny object that swiping across his path only has about a 60% success rate and the lack of control makes it very defeating to play. Ounce himself looks so gloomy and defeated that it makes me wonder why he even wants to leave the well. I gave it a reasonable go but it just didn’t pass the cut.

Save The Egg Review

Save The Egg Review

Mar 7, 2012

There is something about eggs that evokes a very strong protective instinct in people. They are used in summer games (run in relays, passed from spoon to spoon), or as stand-ins for babies in parenting classes. When an egg rolls off the kitchen counter it elicits gasps of horror. Eggs seem helpless, and so a game based around saving them is a pretty inspired idea.

Save The Egg is a physics-based game that challenges users to find the best way to save an egg from its fall to the ground. Each levels begins with the egg poised in some precarious place/position, and then it is an experiment to see how to save it from cracking. Once users have set up their way of protecting the egg, there is a start button that switches on the gravity. The egg falls and then there is a timer that must run out before success can be declared. With nothing obstructing its path the egg will fall immediately to the ground and crack. Users are given tools in the form of wooden boards and bouncy bumpers to mitigate the fall of the egg. The boards can be placed anywhere on the game field, and stretched to change their length. Once the timer is started gravity takes hold of the boards as well, so it can be a matter of trial an error to find a placement that works.

The challenges faced by the egg increase with each level. At first it is just a fall, but in one level an off-camera gun fires a bullet at the egg that must be deflected. The boards can only do so much, it takes logic and trial and error to find the solution.

As I mentioned I like the idea a lot. It can be quite challenging, as sometimes I board I thought would break the egg’s fall instead falls directly on top of it, smashing it. And the dangers are pretty funny. A gun? There’s a cannon too!

On paper it sounds great, but unfortunately I found that I don’t actually enjoy it very much. There’s no music, and the sound effects are strange, sort of mismatched. The egg seems to just be the shell, and no effort was made to animate a yolk. A small detail like that would have been nice. The graphics are incredibly basic and sometimes its own physics work against it. I’ve had it freeze on me completely because of something that happened unexpected in the confines of the game, something that the physics engine couldn’t manage. Ultimately I lost interest very quickly.

The Sims FreePlay Review

The Sims FreePlay Review

Mar 6, 2012

I remember the first time I played The Sims, back in the early 2000’s. I’d kind of missed the big wave of obsession over it, but decided to try it out anyway. I enjoyed it a fair bit, but managed not to get addicted (though I could completely understand how it would be easy for others to do so). I was less interested in building homes for my Sims than I was in playing puppet-master with them. I enjoyed creating their relationships and frustrating them sometimes. So when I saw that EA Games had developed a mobile version of The Sims I found nostalgia compelling me to try it out. And imagine this – it’s free!

The Sims FreePlay truly is free to download, and ad-free as well. That doesn’t mean users won’t necessarily end up spending some money on it, but I’ll get to that. The Sims FreePlay sets users up immediately with a Sim and its house. For those who aren’t familiar with the original game, Sims are people avatars that can be customized. This includes all of the details of their physical appearance, and there is a set of personalities. Once created, the Sim moves into its house, which is then customized as well. The Sims Freeplay is a bit different from the original in that Sims can also develop careers and have pets.

Sims are a little bit like Tamagotchis in that they have needs and wants which must be monitored and cared for. This includes their happiness, hunger, sleep, hygiene and, uh, need to use the bathroom. To motivate users to continue playing the game presents challenges to complete, such as building a garden for the Sim, or having it make a friend. Completing challenges earns XP which earns levels which unlock items to purchase. The Sims Freeplay has in-game money as well as “LP” that can be spent on items or activities. To keep Sims happy they have to do things like bathe, sleep, and listen to music. All of these activities take time, real-world time to complete. Luckily they will continue in the background when the program is closed, or else LP can be spent to speed them up. If users run out of earned LP then they can of course spend a few real-world dollars to gain more.

It’s a fun game, if you enjoy digital pets. Sims can be friends or even romantically involved with one another. It’s vicarious living at the extreme, and I think that’s why it’s so captivating. When Sims are sad they generate a lot of sympathy so the drive to keep them healthy and happy will keep people playing on and on.

It should be mentioned that it is a huge game which required me to clear out a significant portion of memory just for it to install. It was worth it for the graphics, but a bit of a hassle if users are not expecting it or don’t have a large enough memory card. It is completely worth it for the graphics which are insanely crisp. The only problem is that they are on a small screen which causes some details to be lost. There is a limit to how far users can zoom in on the game, and so mistakes can be made. For example I accidentally placed my Sim’s fridge door up against the wall, making it impossible to open. Hopefully I can solve the problem before my Sim dies of hunger.

Edge Extended Review

Edge Extended Review

Feb 3, 2012

I love being surprised by games. It’s great when a game I was waiting for lives up to my expectations, but when I stumble on something great it feels like an early birthday present. Edge Extended is one of those gifts, something I might have missed if it wasn’t writing this review. Let me say, early and often, that it is great and everyone should play it.

It is a puzzle game, very similar to Puzzle 2, however it has a sort of space-age feel to it right off the bat. The user controls a cube and navigates it around on the gameboard with gestures. The cube can flip end over end to move from place to place, but can also topple off the edges if flipped too aggressively. The goal of every level is to flip the cube on to a home pad, while collecting particles of energy along the way. The cube starts off capable of moving at a fixed speed, but every energy particle collected increases its potential speed. Continuous motion can be achieved by holding your finger on the screen.

This game is gorgeous, just lovely. The cube is illuminated by a constantly-shifting flicker of colour, using the entire rainbow spectrum, contrasting with the grey gameboard. The tiny particles that the cube collects flicker with the same light, and so does the home pad that the cube needs to reach. There are stars out there in the beyond, and when the cube is finally rotated to land on the home pad, it explodes in a tower of light and everything recedes into the distance as though sucked into a black hole. Each level has a theme (hinted at by its name) and some special challenge. My favourite is Mini Cube, when the cube shrinks down and flips around the board making a hilarious duck sound.

This game has it all going for it: fantastic graphics and sound, and it’s challenging without being frustrating. The score after completion of a level is calculated based on how quickly it could have been completed. If a user wants to challenge themselves to do it faster they have the option of racing against their shadow from the previous attempt. I love the sense of competition it creates – with myself.

The only thing I could say against it is that the controls sometimes react too strongly to what I thought was a smaller gesture. But then again I’ve seen that lessen the longer I’ve played, so perhaps I’m calibrating myself to the game.

Triple Town Review

Triple Town Review

Feb 2, 2012

There are some words I don’t like to throw around lightly, in case it devalues them. The example I’m thinking of is “addictive”. There are a lot of games that are fun, but the list of games that I physically can’t put down is not long. But some games really are so entrancing that they consume my thoughts even when I’m not playing them. And Triple Town is one of them.

The makers of Triple Town, Spry Fox, have done a brilliant job of combining three gaming aspects that are sure-fire draws: pattern-completion, building, and strategy. It’s called Triple Town because items on the game field must be matched in threes. Place three identical items in proximity of each other and they combine to make a new item of a higher class. Three swatches of grass become a bush. Three bushes become a tree. Three trees become a hut, and three huts become a cottage. I haven’t found out yet what three cottages might become because it is much harder than I expected to build up the item levels without filling the gamespace too quickly. Each game session ends when the gamespace is completely filled with items and there are no more moves to be made. And to make things more complicated there are opponents in the way -bears!- slowing down progress. The bears are adorable and when I saw them in the game logo I assumed that they’d be friendly. But once they are in play, they roam around the board and growl menacingly at the tiny villagers that dare poke their heads out of the huts. Luckily the bears can be of some use. Trap a bear and it becomes a gravestone. Three gravestones become a church, three churches become a cathedral, and three cathedrals become treasure.

There are some hitches though. Items appear for placement in a seemingly random order (think Tetris pieces), and can be difficult to plan around. As well, items can only be placed so long as there some in queue. Play too fast and the queue empties, halting the game. The queue can refill over time, or additional items/turns can be purchased with the in-game coins. This is still maddening as the game really does cast a hypnotic spell that is painful to have interrupted.

It’s a very simple concept but beautifully executed. Pattern-completion is inherently appealing to the human psyche, and the little villages are a joy to create and behold. As items are placed the points rack up and the quest to achieve higher points ranking never ends. I’ve made it to the second level of points only a few times, and I really want to get to level three. Every time I’m playing and have to stop (to eat, sleep, work) I’m sad. And I’ve fallen asleep more than once dreaming about placing some trees in the perfect place.

There is a pretty huge problem with Triple Town though, and it seems to be new as of the last update. The game freezes a lot and badly. Nearly every single time I’ve opened it to play it has frozen irreparably. Twice it has spontaneously re-started my phone completely. It’s a pretty serious problem that affects more than just my enjoyment of the game.

HyperQuiz Review

HyperQuiz Review

Feb 1, 2012

Back in the early 2000’s there was a game that I was absolutely addicted to, called Quiz Quiz. It was an online, multiplayer trivia contest, and for a while it was big. The better the player did at the games the more in-game “money” they won, which could be used to trick out the player’s little avatar, similar to something like in Gaia Online. But one day Quiz Quiz suddenly disappeared and I was left with a hole in my life. So when I saw HyperQuiz I dared let myself hope for a replacement.

HyperQuiz is also an online, multiplayer trivia contest. Each player competes against three other players, and have 10 questions to answer per game. They have a three-second countdown, and then the question is revealed. Each question is multiple choice with four potential answers. The questions are hugely varied in subject matter. I’ve seen questions about movies, sports, science, history, geography, math, and nursery rhymes. Even better, it was only after playing about 20 rounds or so that I saw any repeat questions. Someone has spent a lot of time coming up with a lot of trivia.

Points are awarded for each correct answer, and additional points are awarded for Wins – the first person to correctly answer the question. At the end of the round the points are tallied and the player is awarded those points in the form of diamonds. The diamonds are the currency, but there are also in-game dollars. Currency can be used to purchase Bonuses. One Bonus can eliminate one of the options to help narrow down the answer, and another Bonus moves to the player to the fastest-to-answer, even if you weren’t originally. Bonuses can give an edge once per round of questions, and they have time limits for how long they can be used.

There are little avatar options for users, but they are only a pre-set list of animated head-shots, which is a little disappointing. But if I didn’t Quiz Quiz to compare it to I don’t think I’d honestly give it a second thought. There is the option of signing in as a guest, with a randomly generated username, or else players can sign up and login each time. The advantage of creating an account is that it actually keeps track of points from session to session.

I am a huge trivia nerd, so this game is right up my alley. I play it at least once a day, just a round or two to make myself feel smart. Opponents are selected from whoever else is in the game at that time, but it also attempts to match with people with a comparable success rate in order to keep things challenging. The questions are great and well-written. My favourite question so far was “How many millimeters in a kilometer”, which I got spectacularly wrong.

Being an online game, it requires a stable and speedy internet connection to link up with other players, so it unfortunately fails my Can I Play This On The Subway test. But that’s not really a flaw, and I tested it out on my above-ground commuter train and had very little trouble maintaining my connection. However it can lag suddenly if someone else is on a slow connection. As well, when trying to play during a slow time of day the game will be prevented from starting until there are four players for the round. This can be a bit frustrating.

Voxer Walkie Talkie Review

Voxer Walkie Talkie Review

Jan 31, 2012

Every day technology gives me new and better and more exciting ways to communicate with the people in my life. But it does of course come at a cost. Phoning people costs paid minutes, and texting costs to send and receive. There are also times when I need to impart a lot of information to someone but either don’t want to type it all out on my phone, or don’t want to disturb them with a phone call. Wouldn’t it be nice to leave a voice mail but skip the step of calling their phone?

Voxer markets itself as a walkie-talkie app for phones. Essentially it offers users the opportunity to leave messages for their friends that can be retrieved any time the recipient is free to do so. Messages can be text, but the better feature is the voice option. Hold down the button and talk freely into the microphone. No need to save the message – as soon as the record button is released the message is queued in the recipient’s inbox. I’ve used this feature to co-ordinate detailed plans while I’m walking and can’t text and the other person is getting ready to meet me and can’t be on the phone at that moment. It lets them listen to the message whenever they have a few seconds, without dialing into their voicemail box.

Even better, it really does function as a walkie-talkie if the recipient is in the program at the same time. There’s no need to say “over” at the end of each message – they are all time-stamped and play in order. They’re saved for quite some time, so I’ve also enjoyed going back and listening to random conversations I have had.

I really feel like I need to stress that this is a free app. I don’t know how much money it saves, using data to send messages vs paying for phone minutes, but I know that it has saved me time. Also there is something very appealing about using my phone as a walkie-talkie. It is great, and I wish more of my friends had it. If I could get them all to download it I actually think I’d make very few direct phone calls. There simply wouldn’t be a need to.

I have experienced some bugginess in it though. Or rather I should say my test partner did. He found that sometimes, rather than playing back the audio, the app would just freeze or play static. And I found that sometimes I couldn’t hear the messages he left me unless I took my headphones out and listened to it through the external speaker. A bit odd, but it doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for it in the slightest.

Penguin Palooza Review

Penguin Palooza Review

Jan 31, 2012

Some things are popular because they inherently awesome. Things like robots, and ninjas, and zombies and, of course, penguins. I don’t know what it is about those little tuxedo’d guys that delight me so much, but I am defenseless against anything remotely penguin-related. Penguin Palooza caters to that love in a very focused, and successful way.

The setting is a little watery ice flow, with tall glacier walls on either side. There are platforms on either size, and the goal is to get some kamikaze penguins from side to the other. They arrive on the left-hand ledge and fling themselves into the air toward the icy waters below. The user draws trampolines below them to get them to bounce up and onto the right-hand ledge. The penguins have some pretty good bounce, and a tendency to slip off the ice if they don’t land just right. Points are awarded for every penguin that gets across to the cave on the other side. Fish will jump out of the water during play, and points are also earned for every fish that the penguins gulp out of the air. Beware though; the penguins with full bellies don’t bounce as high. There are also some show-off penguins. They wear jaunty red scarves, ignore the fish, and bounce incredibly high. Any penguin that falls into the water counts as a miss. The game is made harder when the ledges randomly move up and down the walls. Users can have two misses, but a third means game over. However lives can be earned back: there is a tiny baby penguin on the ice below, and the longer the game continues, the more fish he eats. When he eats enough fish to grow up, a life is earned back.

This is only the Palooza mode of play. Palooza continues for as long as users can keep the penguins out of the water. If Palooza gets tedious then there are Challenges. Each challenge round is different and fun; Keep all of the penguins alive for 60 seconds; Get three penguins across with no misses, etc. The challenges give the player a break from the frantic bouncing of Palooza, as the longer play continues in that mode the more penguins have to be kept in the air. The trampolines aren’t permanent – after one bounce they disappear, which is a problem if two penguins are falling together. As well, only three trampolines can be active at any given time. It’s a seemingly simple game but is actually quite the challenge.

I believe I’ve mentioned that I love penguins, and these penguins are incredibly cute (especially when they’ve gulped up a fish). The challenge modes are inventive, and Palooza draws me back time and again to beat my last score.

I seem, however, to have run into a rather strange glitch that has stopped me completely in Challenge mode. Challenge number four requires that I catch 1 gold and 1 pink fish within 60 seconds. However in none of the six or seven times I’ve attempted that challenge has a single pink fish appeared. It is currently unbeatable. And worse still, at one point the game crashed an erased all of my saved data. I think they need to do a little maintenance on the game before I can recommend it whole-heartedly. Lab PRO Review Lab PRO Review

Jan 26, 2012

It’s been many years since “photoshop” became both a verb and a household name. It no longer really belongs to Adobe, instead it belongs to people who need a quick and simple word to describe what they’ve been doing to photos of cats. So it’s very difficult not to think of as a “photoshop app”. But then again, is it really so bad to compare the two? is but a humble offering in the vast field of photo editing apps, and yet it is very strong in its own right and can definitely hold its own compared to its predecessor.

What the developers of have done is distill a lot of the features that make other, more specific photo-editing apps popular, into one sort of general grouping of all possible edits someone could want to make. There are some funny frames, and some artists effects, the option to turn a person into a monster or an animal. But they have also given themselves free creative reign and every two weeks will produce a new photo effect that is always one level weirder/funnier than the last.

Editing the photos is wonderfully simple – the user selects an effect, and then can choose a photo from their gallery, or from a selection of previously-used photos. This is brilliant, because users don’t have to keep hunting through the menus to get back to the image they want to use. The app allows the photo to be cropped so that only the most relevant sections of it are used, and then it does all the work. It actually does a very methodical job of rendering the original image into the new setting. Each time I ran a picture through it I was impressed (or amused). And once the photos are finished there are options to save it to the phone’s gallery, or to export it in whatever manners the phone is capable of.

I applaud the ingenuity of the effects developers. Every two weeks they produce something new to entertain their audience. I do wonder how long they can keep up the stream of effects, but so far they haven’t slowed down. The editing and finals products are all quality work and I have been amusing myself with different hilarious images for days.

What I find unfortunate in the sharing aspect is that users can’t simply email a copy of the image to someone. Instead it gets hosted on’s website, and it produces a link to the webspace. It’s just a little disappointing that there is what I believe to be an unnecessary step between my friends and my hilarious photos.

Negative Space Review

Negative Space Review

Jan 24, 2012

I was a very early adopter of the Nintendo DS, and one of my favourite games on that system (which I still own) was WarioWare. If you’re not familiar, WarioWare was composed entirely of mini-games. There wasn’t really a story, just little 3-second challenges that were equal parts fun and ridiculous. And my first and enduring reaction to Negative Space is how much it reminds me of WarioWare. That alone made it worth a look to me, but was it enough to keep me playing?

Negative Space is a brain-teasing puzzle game, designed to make you think outside the box, or rather outside the lines. You have two little blobs, one black and one white, and the goal is to get each blog to the flag of its corresponding colour. You do this by drawing lines in either black or white, and thus either push the blobs along, or create paths for them to fall through. White can’t move through white and black can’t move through black, but they can move through each other. It’s a little confusing on paper, which is why the game gives you a few tutorial rounds to get you comfortable.

The game presents challenges in a number of inventive ways. You can be limited in the amount of ink you have. Sometimes you’ll have an abundance of one colour and a lack of the other. Or you can be limited in the number of lines that you draw. It really makes you focus and concentrate to get past each level, and it’s a great brain exerciser.

Negative Space‘s downfall is unfortunately that it is rather a one trick pony. I worked my way through the tutorial levels and by the time I got to the main game I was…kind of bored. The difficulty curve is awfully steep and the game had used up most of my patience before I even got to the levels that count. I think they need to go back in and add a few easier levels at the beginning, to draw people in (pun intended).