NumberOne Review

NumberOne Review

Aug 23, 2012

Brain teasers keep the mind young. I think I read that somewhere but can’t remember where. By playing games to evoke thought, the hope is that mind will work like a muscle and get more awesome the more its used. And with apps like NumberOne, now we can work our brains from anywhere.

NumberOne is a brain teasing game to test reaction time. The game is deceptively simple, see the numbered tile at the bottom of the screen and tap the same numbered tile at the top of the screen. Pretty simple, right? Think again. (No pun intended.)

What makes NumberOne a challenge is the mind trickery they play. The number at the bottom might be the number 2 on a red tile. The brain is looks for the color first so at the top, the red tile might be 10. To find the right number the eyes and brain need to look for a number 2. To add to the neural trickery, they toss in dual numbers. So when the red 2 is at the bottom of the screen, there may be a red 10 and a green 22. Both are meant to trick the way the brain processes what the eye sees.

For those people out there who feel like NumberOne is way too easy, there is a Hard level. Instead of small numbers there are triple digits, and not the easy numbers. 539 might pop up at the bottom and the top numbers may be something like 529 or 839 or 536. Number close enough to cause a second look and slow reaction time.

Remember, the whole point of the game is to have the fastest overall reaction time. When the Stroop effect is added to the equation, reaction time is slowed. Working out the brain using games like NumberOne will keep the mind muscles more youthful and sharp.

Reiner Knizia’s Cluster Master Review

Reiner Knizia’s Cluster Master Review

May 30, 2011

I have to admit, I have no idea who Reiner Knizia is. Even after I ran a search on his name through Wikipedia, I came up blank; I’ve never heard of or played any of his games. In a way, that’s good, because it means I enter into this review without any preconceived notions. On the other hand, I hope his other games are much better than Cluster Master, because this one is kind of a dud.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Cluster Master isn’t a bad game, but it’s not a great game, either. The main goal is to rack up a huge score by matching colored tiles on a hexagonal playing field. So far, it’s not exactly blazing any trails. Where the game starts getting a little different is in the placement of the tiles.

The tiles are arranged in patterns that can make placing them a big challenge. The idea is to match up 3 or more in a “cluster” to make them disappear. However, the game never really explains how this mechanic works. As a result, you end up placing tiles in clusters of 4, 5, 6 and more, and they never disappear. As you run out of room, your frustration grows. Why aren’t these tiles disappearing?

It turns out, some tiles have gems in the shape of hearts, clovers and water drops on them. You have to watch for the tiles that sparkle so you know where to place them. This allows you to set up some big combos, as the tiles won’t disappear until you place the correct gem.

Further separating Cluster Master from similar games is the addition of “coins” that you can use to unlock certain powers in the game, like extra time, tiles, etc. Depending on the mode you’re playing, these powers come in very handy, as running out of time and space ends the game. My favorite mode has been “Stress” mode. You’re short on time and have to work fast to get as many points and time as possible.

Aside from the unusual gem matching game mechanic, which I’m coming to appreciate the more I play the game, there’s a slight graphical problem. The game was either designed for a screen that is slightly wider, or shorter, than mine. As a result, it looks slightly stretched, or squeezed, depending on your view. It’s a minor issue, but it’s a bit sloppy if the developers knew about the problem and left it in.

Another problem I encountered was slightly unresponsive controls that made it difficult to drag tiles correctly. This is a problem when time is tight and you have to repeat the same movement before getting it right.

Cluster Master may not be the most innovative game on the Market, but the additional strategy required does help it stand out from the crowd of similar, “match 3” style games that are so ubiquitous. It’s a solid puzzle game, and the additional modes should offer enough variations on the game to keep it fresh for when you’re in the mood to play something a little different from the standard mode.