Tuesday, June 19, 2007

News from the games front

I've written about the games I got online before, last when I wrote about finally cracking "Ravenhearst". Now it's time for another update.

I've got a few new games by now (making good use of the fact that the Euro is currently quite strong compared to the Dollar). Three of them - the last three - will be the topic of this post.

First of all there's another "Mystery Case File" (I got another one, "Mystery Case Files: Prime Suspect" some time ago and I've cracked it already, but it takes quite long). The first produced game of the series is the last one I bought (actually I bought them in reverse order), "Mystery Case Files: Huntsville". It takes the player to Huntsville in the United States where strange crimes have been happening (see picture above for the starting screen). Just as with the other games, you have to find a number of objects on each screen in order to be allowed to solve every case by clearing a picture of the site of crime (one ingame screen on the left of this paragraph). There's quite some crimes before you can go after the boss of a strange organisation: S.T.A.I.N. By now I'm quite familiar with most objects and know a lot of names for some objects I would never have learned by just reading English texts. Talk about not learning anything from gaming...

I've already finished the game twice, as it takes about two hours to do so and I'm quite well trained to find those objects by now (see picture below this paragraph). In fact I've realized by now that it is quite useful for my own quickness of mind to play such games - they train the brain while at the same time providing some reprieve from writing or working at the computer.

The other two games are arcade-based, meaning they've got less to do with thinking and more with reaction (or rather with quick thinking and reaction). Nevertheless they're both interesting and challenging.

The first game is "Shopmania" and its looks are more cartoon-based. It tells the story of a young man named Lewis and his gerbil Gerry (who's got a terrible cold and needs medicine). Lewis works in a shopping mall, starting in the fashion department and working his way upwards. Now, unlike in a normal shopping mall where you're supposed to give the customers what they want, this shopping mall requires its workers to fill the shopping carts of the customers with as many things as possible.

Each shopping cart has a certain free space, starting with a grid of two on two and building up from there; depending on the money earned and the happiness of the customers, the shopping carts can be upgraded to store more - and earn more money with them, naturally. A shopping cart filled enough will turn from the grey you see on the screen beside this paragraph to yellow and a green button with a Dollar-sign will be activated. Then the customer can be send off to the cashier. But Lewis earns more money by filling the carts completely (twice the worth of the contents) and filling them completely with goods in the same colour (three times the worth of the contents). And especially in the higher levels with their high quotas (the minimum of money Lewis has to make during his shift), it's very necessary to learn all those tricks and fill the carts as efficiently as possible. Of course the objects on the belt (in some levels the belts) aren't all shaped easily, some of them are (one on something objects aren't too hard to pack), but most of them are not. And it really is an art to pack them into the cart without leaving hard-to-close gaps.

The fact that the customers are different in type doesn't make the job easier - some will wait quite long, others are quite impatient. And they all make requests you can (but don't have to) meet. Some want a certain colour, others a certain object. To keep them happy (or optimize their carts), Lewis has a couple of tools at his disposal, like sweets (makes customers happy to wait a bit longer) or wrapping paper (turns objects into gifts that count as any desired colour). But the most useful tool for Lewis is Gerry who can be stored in a shopping cart (he turns up on the belt later on again) and will count as any desired colour, too (and in addition can be an object of three different sizes). That's necessary, because a customer who grows too impatient will leave without buying anything - which counts as a mistake for Lewis. An object that falls off the belt and is destroyed by the shredder also counts as a mistake and after three of them, the level is considered 'failed' (just as serving all customers without meeting the quota of the level). Luckily, there's no real 'Game Over' in this game, you just have to retry until you manage to get everything right.

There's two different varieties of the game, too. One is the story mode, in which the gamer follows Lewis' career from the lowest level (fashion) throughout the shopping mall (past toys, household items and garden stuff) to the highest level (luxury goods). Once a level (which contains a certain number of different sub-levels) is unlocked in the career-mode, it can also be played in 'Overtime' mode, in which Lewis has a certain quota and a certain time to serve the customers and can buy additional stuff with the money above his quota. The 'Overtime' mode runs until Lewis fails to meet the quota or makes three mistakes in one level.

The third new game is "Mystic Inn" and it surely has the best graphics I've seen so far. It tells the story of Daphne who wanders into a strange inn one day and finds out she's unable to leave it, because it's cursed. So she goes on working there and serves various portions to her customers (who are all wizards and witches, but seem unable to help her with her problem). The magic she earns is used by the inn to rebuild itself, adding more tables or even changing the station which produces the potions.

Level for level the game gets more difficult - and more interesting, too. The basic principle stays the same: customers arrive and have to be seated (the first difficulty, because they can only be seated at appropriate tables - there's no way to split up a large group, even though smaller groups can be seated at a larger table), after a short time they'll start ordering and want their potions as fast as possible. They pay for the potions in magic and leave a tip, provided they've been satisfied. In addition later on an owl turns up to take orders away and a little dragon appears which steals the potions from the bar where they whiz past until they're picked up by Daphne. As long as there's only one or two groups to serve, it's quite easy, but the more of them you get, and the more impatient once are in, the more difficult it gets. There's a quota you have to meet in every level in order to advance.

The process is always the same, though, but it gets tougher every level. Seat customers, walk to their table to take orders (that's what you see on the picture beside the paragraph; two from two different tables can be taken at the same time), order the potions from the bar with the icons you can see in the lower right of the screen, pick up the potions at the bar, take them to the table and repeat the process with every group and every table until they leave, upon which you have to collect the tip before the table can be used for the next group of customers. Ever level runs from morning to evening while the inn is open for customers (but you finish serving the customers after the inn is closed, of course). It gives the gamer a good insight in the work of a waitress, actually.

All three games are quite interesting and worth their money, I'll get weeks (and, in combination with the other games I got that way, even months) of fun and reprieve from them.

No comments: