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.

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.