Box-e Review

Box-e Review

Jul 23, 2014

It kind of resembles Two Tribes’ Edge, but it has its own goals and control scheme. Box-e on Android offers great challenges for puzzle gamers.

Understanding a game like Box-e is not hard at all. Box-e is a fun, colorful little puzzle game, where players navigate a color changing block through a – at first not so difficult looking – maze. At its core, it is as simple as that. The tricky part is this: players can only use every tile of the level once in order to get the highest score as possible. If one uses the same tile again, the colors of the level will make room for black blocks, letting the player know that what they are doing is wrong.

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The idea is to get as clean and colorful as possible to the end of the stage. Speed does not count toward the high score, so players can take their sweet time to lay out a strategic road for the controllable block. And that is quite necessary. Because right from the start it gets very difficult already, making it not only fun, but also challenging to play. Players really need to think before they tap, in order to finish the level as colorful as possible.

Players control the block in four directions, by tapping in one of the four corners of the screen. It is possible to go a bit lower than that – but the danger is here that one might cross over the invisible line of the direction boxes, resulting in the block going the wrong way. On the other hand, when a player does use the right corners, it is possible to open the history of used apps window or to press the back button. Luckily, that last one does not work, so that won’t disturb one’s game.

The game only has 25 levels to beat and most of them are pretty hard to get the maximum score of three golden stars. I don’t know if there will be more levels, but it is quite the downside. Most free puzzle apps have more levels to beat and this one cost money (1 dollar 21 cents to be precise), so it feels kind of weird to pay for something that has less content. But overall, the game offers an enjoyable experience in terms of challenging levels and very nice graphics.

Bezircle Review

Bezircle Review

Jul 22, 2014

Bezircle is best described in two words: chaotic and paradoxical. Both descriptions are, however, in favor of the game, because it is very addictive and has some through through its game design.

It has been months since Bezircle first launched on iOS, but now it is finally available on Android: Bezircle, from the Dutch developer Ludomotion. It is a tactical ‘beat-the-stuffing-out-of-that-button’ game. That may sound a bit contradictory: in tactical games, players need time to reach certain goals in the game and those games give players the time they need. And an old fashioned button smasher is quite the opposite: the faster one reaches their goal, the better.

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In the chaos of the paradox that Bezircle certainly is, players may find a true addictive game. The addictive nature of the game is what makes it truly unique. The goal is to ‘bezircle’ the circles on screen. Players need to move the worm from circle to circle, but that is only possible via the link road with just a tap of the only (digital) button. When the player is at the circle they want, they need to hold down the button, while the worm makes his round. After that, the circle is for the player.

In the singleplayer of the game, players are constantly getting introduced to new gameplay elements: new enemies, weapons and goals to reach – there is really nothing one cannot think of that isn’t here. Getting those circles costs energy and the worms can get that by eating smaller animals. Later on in the game, there are levels where there aren’t much of those animal to collect, so players need to think about getting them as soon as possible. Otherwise, it is game over before one might know.

That one button in game is something that makes Bezircle that much accessible. But it is also a source of irritation and frustration. It is digital, and there isn’t any feedback for the player. And because it is so small, one might press right next to the button. Also, it is all the way in the right corner of the screen; my thumb was in an uncomfortable position during gameplay. We it is not possible to just press anywhere on the screen, is a riddle for me. This is just frustrating.

The multiplayer is where the game shines. Bezircle is playable with four players, but on a smaller screen (my Nexus 5 has five inches of screen space, but that is still too small) is it hard to see what to do. The best way to enjoy this game with friends, is to play it on a tablet. That way, nobody will be in someones way with their hand or anything. The singleplayer of this game is actually a very long tutorial for the otherwise brilliant multiplayer, because it is much more fun when players know what to do and when to do it.

Glowgrid Review

Glowgrid Review

Jul 18, 2014

Some puzzle games can be really relaxing, while other games of the same genre can be brutal as heck. The ambient puzzle game Glowgrid is a little bit of both, thanks to his two game modes.

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If one would see the title ‘glowgrid’ and fires the game up, he would instantly see that the title of the game matches with the aesthetics of it. Like anyone could predict, in Glowgrid players get to fill up a glowing grid with some well know and lesser known shaped blocks, where they need to combine four or more blocks of the same color. The goal is to fill up the bar at the top of the screen, with a total worth of one hundred points. If players get to that point, the bar immediately empties itself. The next goal is to fill it up once again, only now while players need to figure out a way in their own mess, because the grid still contains like ninety pro cent of the blocks one previously placed there.

So basically, this game tells the gamer: once you made your bed, you must lay in it. Players better make sure to make as less mess as humanly possible, because when there are to much blocks, it is game over. This idea, like the shape of some of the blocks, looks similar to games like Tetris, but due to its grid and other types of blocks, it does feel like it is a new type of game. Combining the blocks seems easy at first, but when players pilled up some blocks here and there to make a combo of a certain type of color, they could make it potentially harder on them self when it comes to another color that needs to be taken care of. So for the player, it is a constant struggle where to place the blocks, keeping in mind that, in the near future, they may need to work around them.

But is fun and it stays fun for a while. In the casual mode, players get to take the time they need to decide where to place the blocks making it, combined with the neon styled graphics, a relaxing puzzle experience on the go. But in the hardcore mode, there is a time limit that makes life awful while playing this game, because of the idea that there is not only yourself to make the game hard, there is also a nasty time limit to shake things up. But like I said just a moment before, it is always fun to play.

Making Space Forest Dilemma Fun To Play Was More Important Than Giving It Great Graphics

Making Space Forest Dilemma Fun To Play Was More Important Than Giving It Great Graphics

Jul 18, 2014

Space Forest Dilemma is a very simple game to understand, but don’t let it fool you. The game is tough as nails, but never unfair. That is, among other things, the result of focused gameplay, rather than polished graphics.

Newborn developer Papaquark just released their first, fast paced puzzle game on Android devices, called Space Forest Dilemma. In Space Forest Dilemma the objective is, according to the developers of course, very simple. Just do not collide. On screen there is a grid and on that grid, there are different obstacles and objects – all with their own different movement patterns. To succeed in the game, players need to memorize all those patterns and have to plan ahead of those patterns so they can move all the moveable blocks right after one another.

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Space Forest Dilemma is being praised all over the place. But how did the team of only two guys, Michael and Andreas, come up with the idea? Michael, one of the co-founders, explains. “The idea was originally hatched a couple of years ago during a period of long train rides. Inspired by Rube Goldberg Machines, the basic concept was invented and eventually discarded, since it didn’t play well with a mouse on pc.” This was before everyone had a smartphone with touchscreen. “Last summer we made a prototype on a smartphone and with new touch controls the old idea actually turned into something that was challenging and fun to play.”

If players do not pay attention, the game can be very challenging – perhaps to challenging. But that was a deliberate decision. Both co-founders love old school games and games where one need to think ahead and plan their next move. “This basically includes everything from old school puzzlers like Tetris, to strategy games like the original UFO: Enemy Unknown, to classic adventure games like Grim Fandango. The kind of games that make you feel smart when you get it right, you know.” So based on that – and our own play sessions – the game is hard, but never unfair.

To me, the game has a rough-kinda look and feel – there isn’t much variation on screen and the colors don’t seem to complement each other. Like it is still a beta or early in development or something like that. “It’s a bit of a mix really”, Andreas explains to me. “None of us is a wizard when it comes to graphics, and also we kinda like (or at least we don´t mind) the slightly rough do it yourself style.” They spent a lot more time on testing different game mechanics, making levels and stuff to make sure the game was fun to play, than they did on the graphics.

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“We had an idea to get help with polishing things up, but in the end we decided to do everything ourselves as a learning experiment. We finally ended up with a style that we felt was fairly unique, a good fit with the gameplay and that we could handle with our limited graphic skills. Hopefully we’ll get better and better at graphics too, not necessarily to make it more polished, but to be able to create the right style and feel that we want for our next game.” In that light, it was a good decision to gave the graphics less attention – it helped the developers to get the best out of the gameplay.

Since this is Papaquarks first release, I expected that the team of two guys had to overcome big obstacles to get where they are now. “The hardest part was probably coming up with a name for our studio”, Andreas says with a big smile on his face. “No, but seriously, this is the first game we have ever completed so just finishing and being able to publish it felt like a huge accomplishment for us. Completing a game was simply a lot more work than we had anticipated and we ran into a lot of obstacles. Being our first game though, we kinda expected to make mistakes along the way.”

The technical problems they experienced were like learning experiences for them, which helped with the motivation. “Thankfully we’ve known each other for a long time so we’re not afraid to speak out when we think something’s not that great. We’re also pretty good at knowing when to push each other or when to give each other a break.” Another thing that can only help the final product, which players can download now from the Google Play Store. “Our goal has been to create a game that’s both unique and fun and we believe we have done just that.” Download it here.

Hopeless: Football Cup Review

Hopeless: Football Cup Review

Jul 18, 2014

In Hopeless: Football Cup, players get to experience a different kind of football videogame. If I have to put a game next to it that closely resembles it, it should be Orange Pixel’s Tapkick Football. In the good and the bad way.

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Hopeless: Football Cup is a game where players need to tap on the touch screen, in order to make the blob on-screen head the ball away. If they don’t, the ball will simply demolish the little bugger and than it is game over for the player. It is a hard concept, similiar to games like Flappy Bird; players just need to keep on tapping at the right moment to succeed in the game. Hopeless: Football Cup perhaps stands even more closely to Orange Pixel’s Tapkick Football, a game that featured the studio’s own vision on the simple tap mechanic of Flappy Bird.

And like Tapkick Football, Hopeless: Football Cup has only one mode. This could be enough if the game would be as simple als Tapkick, where players can only choose different country’s. Those country’s teams had no effect on gameplay and just changes the color scheme of the players. Hopeless does things a bit different. Players need to get high scores to earn money and with that hard earned cash, they can buy extra stuff to make life more comfortable for those sad looking, little blob fellows. But sadly, this game isn’t that much fun to earn that money to make life more comfortable – in fact, the gameplay is a bit dumb if you ask me, being a bit to unpredictable in terms of tapping that ball away because of the inaccurate animation of the blob.

But the game does look very nice. It has some awesome graphics going for it and the sound effects really puts stuff in perspective. The blob isn’t there by free will and the people around him are throwing balls at him to hurt him or something. It is pretty scary if you think about it… Anyway, although it is yet another take on the simple tap mechanic, it doesn’t come much far because of, in my opinion, a bit to unpredictable gameplay in combination with inaccurate controls.

Virus Jiggling Fever Review

Virus Jiggling Fever Review

Jul 17, 2014

Don’t be mislead by the graphics or screenshots from this game. Old gamers, pay attention; this is a retro trip back to the eightes.

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Virus Jiggling Fever is a very retro styled game on so many levels. In the game, players need to shoot a special bullet from te tower on the left side of the screen to the colored viruses on the right side of the screen. Those bullets have different kind of colors as well: green ones shoots a green virus and red ones shoots a red virus. When the players hits a virus, or the wall, the ceiling or floor, the bullet bounces back to the player – forcing them to use their shield to once again bounce the bullet back at one of the viruses, depending of the color of the bullet at that moment.

It may sound a bit complicated at first, but when one is playing the game everything speaks for itself, really. And that is, of course, a good thing. What is also a good thing, is the way the game is played. The character isn’t very flexibel, meaning he can only go up or down the ladder of the tower. But in this game, that is al it needs. It kinda reminded me of those old Game & Watch games from the eightes, where characters had pre-drawn sprites and could only move accordingly. It feels the same way to, so that are some massive points in terms of the retro feeling of the game.

But that is not the only thing the game does to reminds us of past video games. The graphics are Game Boy Color like, with minimal animations and bright colors. And the sounds and music – oh man, that music – it has written Game Boy all over it. And if I think about it, Virus Jiggling Fever could very well be a Game Boy Color game, with al the basics and aesthetics at the right place. Only in the wrong time. Nowadays, game producers can do so much more with graphics and gameplay, and a retro – no, just call it old fashioned in a good way – game like this, feels refreshing at some level.

But is the game any fun? That answer is undoubtetly yes. The controls may be a bit different; slow and not responsive at all, if you will. But thanks to the overall old fashioned feeling the game radiates, it is forgiven. Fever Jiggling Fever reminds me of the days of the Game & Watch and the Game Boy Color and, man, those were the days.

Uppercup Football Review

Uppercup Football Review

Jul 16, 2014

With the World Cup fever having come and gone, there’s a massive pile of soccer/football games to consider. But I sincerely believe that I have found the best one. Ever.

Imagine this: you are playing a soccer game in which the soccer players run through big puddles. They slip and slide across the field, barely missing the small mountains and mines on the play field. Meanwhile, the other team, consisting of players with horse heads, kicks againts the ball that is just bouncing around the field – wait, what? It’s a football? No, this cannot be a normal soccer game. This one is crazy and right of the start, I can say this is the best soccer game I have ever played.

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This game is called Uppercup Football. In this footie, matches like described above are very common. Players do not directly control the players. Normally, I would find this sort of controls very stupid, but in this game’s case I don’t. The effect and position of the ball is very unpredictable. Players only need to press one button to shoot or tackle. By holding the button a bit longer, the shot or attack becomes more powerfull, creating super fun situations during gameplay.

The way the ball moves through the field and how the soccer players are controlled, kind of reminded me of the LEGO football building sets. A bit static, but thanks to the uncertainty of where the ball is going when a shot is fired, it becomes very dynamic. There isn’t a shot where the player is sure the ball will go to and that results in the kind of gameplay I like very much: chaotic, but always fun. And it doesn’t even take time to get used to this control scheme.

The basics of the game is very well done as well and borrows some elements from popular games. There is the famous three star rating system players can go for, for example. In Uppercup Football, players do not play complete matches, but instead furfill certain objectives. When you finish those goals (pun intended) in time, then that specific level is done. Because the game uses divided content like this, it makes it very much playable as a mobile game – because small games are finished quick.

But above all, Uppercup Football really emits fun. The game is so colorfull, has some awesome animations en de music, although it is only one single track, is simply marvelous en keeps on playing in one’s head. At the end of the day, I can only say this is the best soccer game I have ever played, and I have played a lot. I can recommend Uppercup to anyone out there – wether they are fan of soccer or not, this game delivers on fun. So, go play it.

99 Bricks: Wizard Academy Review

99 Bricks: Wizard Academy Review

Jul 16, 2014

If there is one well known concept in the video game industry, then it’s Tetris. That game knowns dozens of iterations and has proven to be worth to many different publishers and developers out there. After all those years and versions, one might think that Tetris isn’t suitable any more to base a new game on – but the very least is true. Enter 99 Bricks: Wizard Academy.

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In 99 Bricks: Wizard Academy players take on the role of a sorceress apprentice. The student must get familiar with the art of stacking blocks and raise that knowledge to an art form. De blocks come failing out of the sky and have different shapes – and here is the point we should stop comparing it to Tetris. The biggest difference between that game and 99 Bricks, is that in 99 Bricks, players should keep on building and building on top of there creations, where in Tetris one should destroy their own accomplishment. The game isn’t over when the screen is full of blocks, players can build until a couple of blocks have fallen off. When that happens, a crazy roof appears out of thin air, which needs to be placed on top of the awesome tower that has just been build.

WeirdBeard, a game developer from Amsterdam, has also implemented gravity as a gameplay component. Not just because of the falling blocks, of course. But when some blocks a stacked just a bit on the edge of an other block, it might fall. This also means that blocks might be squinted on one’s tower, instead of really straight next to the other one. At that point, players must think ahead and keep in mind that, when building upon those skew blocks, one might need some extra space to keep the tower steady. This is where the game really shines for me. Because when I was at this point, it was always my own fault.

When players are building their towers, they collect coins. With those coins, they can unlock different things. For example, one could buy a new robe for the wizard or some extra lives or magic. With magic, players can do different things: zapping away the falling block, which spares a life. Or make it gold, to get some extra cash. The blocks can even be made of solid bricks, so they won’t fall down anymore. Sometimes, I encountered that the lighting zapped away the wrong block for me and that is really the only downside to this game – mainly because this is a physics based puzzle game where control means everything. And zapping blocks is, apparently, something I didn’t had complete control over.

But the rest of the controls a marvelous. By tapping ones, players turn the blocks around. By swiping left or the right, the blocks will go that corresponding way. And by swiping downwards, they will go down much faster. It can’t go wrong, in my experience. And this, combined with the extremely addictive nature of the game and the quirckly looks, makes 99 Bricks: Wizards Academy are very well made and fun game to play.

Stickman Soccer 2014 Review

Stickman Soccer 2014 Review

Jul 10, 2014

How can a developer make a soccer video game more accessible and reliable than, say, a complex soccer video game like FIFA or PES? By simplifing the controls and putting in some stickmen instead of the well known soccer players.

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Americans probably won’t watch the World Cup like they did last week. But here in Holland, the World Cup fever keeps getting higher and higher and during those matchless days, we crave for football and look for it else. But not everyone likes or can handle games like FIFA or PES, so mobile game developers have the chance to fill in the gap and can provide us with some casual soccer video game experiences. Enter Stickman Soccer 2014, not the be confused with another sport series that uses the same Stickman name in their games.

Stickman Soccer 2014 is one of those games gamers can pick up easily, because of two things: the simple premise of the game and the easy to use on-screen controls. Really, everything in this game speaks for itself and that is a massive plus for the game. But on-screen controller input never has been something to be proud of and even in that case, Stickman Soccer 2014 thought of something: automatic running. Although it is a solution to that problem, it comes with another. By not controlling the players directly – a big feature in footies – the game gets rather dull. The only thing players have to do at that point is shooting and tackling and that is just not enough to come by.

The other big problem I have with this game that it costs either a lot of money or time to get the full experience. The game costs 99 cents at first, but that’s not enough to get the full game. Players need to spend extra cash to unlock more modes and matches in the game, they need to play a lot of the same matches in the beginning or need to watch some commercials to unlock everything. Most of the time, it is this: or paying for the full game or get bugged by commercials. In Stickman Soccer 2014, it is both. Combined with the overall theme and timing of release, I wouldn’t be a quick judge saying this is nothing less than a quick cash cow for the developer.

And that is a shame. Because, although the Stickmen could mean nothing to a player while playing, the game looks really nice and provides two kinds of controle schemes to fit the needs of the player. And it does offer a lot of gameplay to the player – but only if they watch the commercials or pay the extra cash. It’s just too obvious of a cash cow.

Car Town Streets Review

Car Town Streets Review

Jun 23, 2014

Car Town Streets not only looks very nice, it is also a very decent and entertaining time management game where players need to rebuild a city, while building cars and racing with them. But, just as many other free-to-play titles out there, there is that damned paywall.

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Car Town is a popular Facebook game, which made its way into iPhones more than a year ago. Now, the car-filled time and town management game hits Android in the same form as the iOS version, with all its pros and cons. In Car Town Streets, players are tasked with rebuilding an empty town with all kinds of shops and building different kinds of cars, so that they can race with them and assign them jobs (based on the placed buildings in the city). It’s actually a pretty decent game with a nice gameplay experience, mainly because of its addictive management nature.

Everything in Car Town Streets revolves around cars, as one might guess. So players need to search, find and build as many as possible to rebuild the town as quick as possible. Different buildings (like a pizza place) bring in jobs for the cars, so players can make some extra bucks. Others (like a garage) can fix cars or upgrade them, so they will do well in races. There are quite a few licensed cars in the game and one’s collection might get quite impressive.

That is, if the players of this game would have a lot of patience. Building something, anything, takes a tremendous amount of time. And sadly, the only way to get rid of those nasty time limits, is by paying real life money. The most troublesome fact is that the game eases players into spending cash on the game, by forcing them to use the thirty dollars worth of ‘free cash’, to speed up the process of the tutorial. So right from the start, players are – perhaps even unaware – confronted with the idea to speed everything up in the game. Seriously, why do developers keep on doing stuff like this? Yeah, maybe they get some quick bucks from impatient or gullible players, but in my opinion, that is just wrong. Let me be clear about something: with the idea of free-to-play is nothing wrong; even paying for stuff players might (think) they want, isn’t anything bad, at first. But this way, it goes too far in my opinion.

And, to be honest, that completly ruins the game for me. I understand that the concept of this game is mainly waiting and to get rid of that, players need to pay up. But that should be a choice, not something that is presented as an easy to use gameplay element.

Drive in the Line Review

Drive in the Line Review

Jun 19, 2014

One of the new fads on Google Play of this moment, are games where players need to guide a something between lines. In this game, it’s a car between both sides of the deserted road. If players fail… Well, then the car explodes. So, yeah.

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There is something about games that are very simple and really hard at the same time. Drive in the Line is one of those games. In Drive in the Line, players drive their way through an endless desert apocalypse. Somehow, the driver of the car is stranded somewhere on earth where there is nothing but an endless, ever changing road that leads to virtually nowhere – with only one goal in mind: just keep in driving and don’t look back. Now, a premise like this surely sounds interesting, and it is in its own way. Players take control of the driver’s car and need to help him navigate the endless road ahead of him. Since this is a high score based game, and games are generally short by nature, this game soon went from ‘this is nice’ to ‘I need to set a new high score’. Because, when one plays this game, it is something that will play in their minds. Mainly because players know they can do it.

Something completly left unexplained is the reason why this road is so hard to navigate. Sometimes, players just need to drive ahead, drive in a small curved turn. But more than once, there is a sharp turn. And another. And another. And than it’s game over. It is as frustrating as it is the charm of this game. And control is everything at those thight moments. The car drives by itself and is only able to steer left or right. Players use only one on-screen analog stick to make those nasty turns and it works very well. But it still remains a very hard game. In fact, one of the last updates of the game, made the game a bit easier than it used to be. And I can only say that I’m very glad with that decision, because it made to game much more playable by being a bit more forgiving towards its players. The graphics of the game are nothing special, being themed as a apocalyptic race game it robbed itself from being colorful and vibrant. And the sound is just awful.

But at the end of the day, Drive in the Line shows way this type of games are the new fad on Google Play Store. It is as simple as it is addictive and the controls a more than okay to handle the car. And let’s not forget the recent update that made the game a bit more forgiving towards its players. Thank you, game makers.

Band Stars Review

Band Stars Review

Jun 19, 2014

In Band Stars, players need to make one of the most successful bands ever existed. The core mechanics of the game are easy to pick up and understand; does that mean the game is a bit to shallow? Or has it more to offer?

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Android gamers surely are familiar with games from Kairosoft – I know I do. One of my favorite and most played Android games of all time is Game Dev Story. The core of that game is simple, accessible and really, really addictive. It is a time management game like no other, providing the player with enough stats and feedback – not to much, but certainly not to little – for them to keep on playing. Band Stars reminded me of the joyful experience, because this game – although it is in the same genre and tries to build on the same foundation – does nothing like that. Surely, it does in some way. It simple, addictive nature, combined with the theme of becoming the most successful band ever, is strong, but the experience is just to shallow to claim it’s good.

The game follows the players band from scratch to their first successes. In the beginning, it is fun – don’t let their be any doubt about that. Players create a song by choosing a music style and a subject and they will have to uncover the best combo’s for the biggest success. That success also depends on the stats of each of the band members and if the players chooses to use some Drinks to boost the score of the song. Drink is also something players can buy; thankfully, it is not necessary to get everything out of the game. When a song is created, it goes on into the charts and players start to make money. With that money, they can invest in their own band by training the members or buy them some new equipment. There are also some challenges that should offer some explanation how to complete certain objectives within the game, but they aren’t fun at all. Some are even unclear to the player of the goal in mind.

But the most frustrating part of the game, is that there isn’t a real climax. Sure, players can compete on various leaderboards and finish all the challenges, but there isn’t even an option to make a CD. Why isn’t there an option to make a CD? I recorded so many numbers, I could make two. It is a shame, because at its core, Band Stars isn’t a bad game. It’s accessible, easy to play and has a good overall presentation. But it doesn’t have an overall goal to complete or to maintain the focus of the player, because it doesn’t offer much depth to the player. Therefore, Band Stars is one heck of a shallow time management game.