Word Puttz Review

Word Puttz Review

Mar 5, 2014

Word games come a dime a dozen on Android, and thus, it takes a decent game to make headway. Gotta tell you, with the elements Word Puttz brings to the table, it might just have more than a passing flirtation with success.

At first blush, it reads like one’s run-of-the mill crossword puzzle, except for the limited area. But the first glance is deceptive, and leaves one wondering how word search, scrabble and putt-putt (yes, people, the mini-golf game) get added to the mix.

The game uses spoon-fed tutorials to highlight the game play at pertinent points. The playing area is made up of squared grid, with a golf-style cup at one end. The most prominent element is the word search; using the tray of sevenwordfi letters that are replenished as they are used, words have to be constructed using a placed start letter, with the end goal being using crossword strategies to create a word that crosses over the aforementioned cup. No diagonal constructions are allowed; one has to go down or across.

To add to the challenge, words created score points, and each letter tile has assigned points that resemble Scrabble scoring; for example, a worth with a “J” in it is of high premium. The Scrabble element introduces the possibility of using strategy, as general rules of that game are observed, like the creation of combo words. it is also possible to “dance” around the cup while trying to earn more points, as points control the assignation of level measuring stars à la Angry Birds. There is a tile exchanger, “hintz” and reversal button, and real cash can be used to stock up on some of the boosts, including wildcard “octo-balls.”

As the game progresses through the higher levels, more challenges are thrown at the player: optional gold coins that can be crossed over for bonus points, point thresholds to open the cup, the need to spell backwards and even a race to the cup versus the game UI. Just when one suspects the gameplay might get a bit too monotonous, the developer adds in some flair.

While the game is an all-rounder of sorts, I did wish the challenge level rose faster. An optional means of shutting down ads apart from real cash might have been nice, even if it was hard to do.

Still, this is a fun free-to-play game, and one that I spent a bit too long “trying” out.

Virtua Tennis Challenge Review

Virtua Tennis Challenge Review

Apr 30, 2012

The Dreamcast (may it rest in peace) had some brilliant games, and the majority of the classics have found loving homes on modern consoles, from Power Stone on the PSP to Crazy Taxi on Xbox Live Arcade. Virtua Tennis has had more success than either of these though, and has kept tennis enthusiasts happy for years on PC, Xbox, Playstation, Wii, Gameboy, even the N-Gage and now: Android.

Better still, this version – Virtua Tennis Challenge – is optimized for Xperia Play, meaning that the gameplay that once cost $50 on console can now be bought for a fraction of the price, without needing to sacrifice ‘real’ controls in the process, to the distinctly mixed bag of touch screen tactility.

This means that the player is controlled with the d-pad, and different shots are performed with the face buttons, allowing players to lob, smash and backhand their way from game to game pretty seamlessly. The only slight letdown here is that SEGA have decided not to let players use the touchpad for movement, meaning that the tennis stars move in more stilted ways than a true analogue input should allow.

As with most Xperia Play games, the touch screen controls are still present, and pushing closed the control pad element instantly changes it to the vanilla Android version. The truth is though, for Xperia Play owners, there’s absolutely no reason to do this other than misplaced curiosity. While the swiping and dragging along the touchscreen can mostly be mastered with a little practice (and forgiving a few missteps when the game gets confused), it’s absolutely no game, set and match for the d-pad and face buttons.

It’s this control system that makes this a true part of the Virtua Tennis series, a game that has been the go-to arcade tennis game for over a decade. It doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the best presented Android sports titles around. While the graphics are colorful, sharp and detailed, it’s the animation that’s the real winner here, with players celebrating winning moments, and tossing their racquet in frustration when things don’t go to plan.

Players of the Dreamcast original would have struggled to contain their excitement seeing such a polished version playing out on the small screen, without any sacrifices to the gameplay. It plays impressively well, with players having to judge the tempo of the match, and draw out their opponents on the harder levels by picking the correct shot.

The AI can be set to three difficulty levels, which can be worked through through either in straightforward exhibition matches or the simple but addictive career mode which sees players working their way up the world rankings by entering tournaments and earning sponsorship money. Once World Number One, or bored of the AI, there’s also bluetooth multiplayer with other local Android players, but sadly no online play as yet.

It’s not as fully featured as its big brother, Virtua Tennis 4 on console, but for a fraction of the price Challenge is a no-brainer for Xperia Play owning tennis fans. Regular Android players will have to consider how much they feel they’ll miss out by having to make do with the imperfect touch screen, but this is one of those games that can make Xperia Players happy they took the plunge on Sony’s hybrid handset.

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.

Puzzle 2 HD Review

Puzzle 2 HD Review

Jan 6, 2012

Games don’t always need to have clever names to get us to notice them, but it does help. But while Puzzle 2 is very humble in name, but do not let that fool you. It is a puzzle game indeed, and one that you do not want to miss.

You are represented by a yellow block, and your goal is to make your way to the yellow square. Simple enough, until you see the game levels. Single tiles are laid out in paths, which you must navigate by flipping the block end-over-end. Be careful – done tiles are fragile and will crumble away if you land on them end-up. Falling off the board erases all of the progress that you have achieved, and so you must judge your moments careful to prevent it. There are also various obstacles to overcome, or conditions to meet. For example, there are triggers throughout the levels, but their tiles are blocked by lasers. Or perhaps a platform is unreachable until you land on a button that deploys new, connecting tiles. Some conditions can only be met if multiple triggers are performed at the same time. But no matter how impossible a level may seem, there is always a solution. Lasers can be blocked by the green ghost block, and multiple triggers can be done when you use the mirror block (every action taken by the yellow block is mirrored).

But the bigger challenge is personal. Again, every level has a solution, and the elation you feel on completion is quite heady. But you’ll stop short when you see that points are awarded based on how efficiently you completed the puzzle. It’s easy to get obsessed with doing it again, but this time better.

They’ve done some wonderful things with the use of special blocks and obstacles. The art is beautiful, and the lack of any ground or landscape around the game tiles actually creates a sense of almost vertigo, which is very impressive. Each stage is harder than the last, with countless levels to unlock and improve on. There is always a solution to every puzzle, and you’ll eventually get them all.

The changes they need to make (perhaps when there is a Puzzle 3) are to the controls. The blocks rotate in essentially 3 dimensions, and flicking your finger in the desired direction will cause the blocks to roll or fall over. However one wrong mood sends your block flying out into space, and you start again at square one. there are no do-overs, and it is uncomfortably easy to topple your block in the wrong direction. A lot of hard work can go to waste far too easily.

Puzzled Rabbit – Review

What do rabbits have to do with puzzles? Well, normally not much, until Puzzled Rabbit. Puzzled Rabbit is a brain-teaser puzzle-solving game that uses a simple package to bring you some very complex conundrums. The rabbit is a little patchwork (or possible origami) fellow who just wants to move some red blocks into their homes on the game board. It’s not really clear why except that getting the blocks into their proper places will “make the rabbit happy”. I’ll be honest, it makes me happy to do, but it’s less to do with the rabbit and more about the fact that the puzzles are honest to goodness head-scratchers the satisfaction of solving them gives me some real Pavlovian delight.

To solve a puzzle you need to move the red block(s) on the screen into green brackets. You are graded on time it takes to solve, and number of moves taken to complete it. There are some simple physical rules – the rabbit pushes the blocks around one hop at a time with each hop counting as a move, and only he can only push the blocks in one direction at a time. Which means that if you get a block stuck in a corner then there is no way for the rabbit to get it out. But luckily the gamemakers saw fit to give us an Undo Move button, allowing you to retrace your steps back to where you went wrong or to start over completely if necessary. And it’s not all blind guessing, either. Clicking once on a block will show you (in the form of target blue circles radiating outward) what the moves are that you can perform on it. So with some trial and error any puzzle can be solved. But they do offer a challenge and that is what will keep you coming back.

A final treat that the makers added, likely as a nod to its mind-expanding properties, is quotes from well-known big thinkers as the prize for the completion of each stage. For example: “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale. They didn’t need to add that little detail, but the fact that they do…well, I love it.

The controls are not difficult to use for me, but could be for others so I can’t say that it has no flaws. And the graphics and music are very simplistic, so it’s not very visually captivating. If you need that sort of thing to keep you invented in a game then you may be disappointed.