Saturday, December 31, 2011

Weekend Update

It’s the end of the month and the end of the year and I didn’t do a weekend update last week … well, it was Christmas and I had other stuff to do, didn’t get to read or play much or watch DVD anyway. This weekend is New Year (New Year’s Eve), but I might actually get to do some stuff.

  • DVD to watch: “The Monster Squad”
  • Book to read: still working on a German one, “Der Krähenturm” (The Crow Tower) by Kerstin Pflieger
  • Game to play: I have fallen under the spell of “The Elder Scrolls: Sykrim”

Last weekend of the old year and first weekend of the new one. Ah, weekend!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Weekend Update

Well, I didn’t write a weekend update last week, but I did play around a bit with the Sims. This weekend, though, I plan on doing this:

  • DVD to watch: some episodes from the 3rd season of “Criminal Minds”
  • Book to read: “Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway” by Dave Barry
  • Game to play: “On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness” Episode 2

After yesterday’s storm, we have nice weather outside today – cold, though.

Saturday, December 03, 2011


You might have realized there is a new banner on my blog (on all three, to be more precise). It will lead you to a forum called the Challengers Casual Games Club, where I am playing challenges myself.

The games we play there for fun usually are casual games, mostly TM games. Time Management games most of the time come with a scoreboard or at least a summary of how well you did at the end of each level, so they are suited to be used for a challenge.

And there are lots of challenges, too! There’s the monthly challenges, where you can play one game throughout a month, trying for the best possible overall score you can get. There’s the ongoing challenges which allow you to submit proof you have beaten a game whenever you get to playing it. And there’s the mini-challenges, in which you can play and replay a level of a game throughout a week for best possible result.

All challenges you take a part in give points. And the points will be added up at the end of the month for a final score that is posted on the leader board of the site. Admittedly my scores usually are nothing to write home about – I play for fun and I am not a very competitive person by nature. This, however, now earns me the right to give away the Wooden Spoon Award for each monthly challenge – an award, plus extra points, for the one who did show most potential for growth. That’s usually not the one in first place, but there’s always one around doing an amazing job. Well, there’s a lot of people doing amazingly well and improving their playing a lot. Including me, as it were.

If you are playing casual games (or want to start playing) and like a good challenge, take a look over there and find out more! Challenges will await you!

A very new Anno

What will I be doing this weekend? Instead of giving you the usual weekend update, I will do this post, for one thing. The reason for this is that I will be occupied with one thing for most of the weekend: “Anno 2070”.

I have been playing the Anno series by the German developers Related Design ever since the first one, “Anno 1602”. Through “Anno 1503,” “Anno 1701,” and “Anno 1404,” I have made my way through island worlds, founded cities, plotted trade routes and done little dances of joy upon spotting the first noblemen (and -women) in the streets.

Anno has always been about building up one big city on one island and colonizing others in order to obtain wares and resources your main island needs. Clever planning of the city, diplomatic abilities to deal with other settlements and a fleet of ships have been the main ingredients to success.

Now Related Design has taken a very big step, the step from the Middle Ages and Renaissance to the future. The new Anno is set in the not too distant future of Earth, in the year 2070. (If you wonder about the dates: all Anno date are made up of numbers that add up to 9 – check it out, if you want.) Gone is the contemplative Medieval world where the settlers walk around on simple dirt paths and carts pick up all the stuff from the woodcutters, breweries, and other sites. In the year 2070, after the climate change has turned continents into atolls, flying transports zoom from the warehouses to the production sites and cars hover over the stable streets.

Underneath the new times, however, Anno still is Anno. Good planning is still the key to success. To make things harder, however, the one fraction from the prequels (well one and a half in “Anno 1404”) has been split into three different ones. Tycoons, Ecos and Scientists live in the new island world and, in order to obtain buildings from the fractions, have to be part of a settlement. While the free game only allows for you to choose one fraction (Eco or Tycoon, you will always have Scientists around), during the campaign you will soon have all of them living in your cities.

Bad for me, though: the game doesn’t really run offline, even though theoretically it should. Trying to get the game to start offline, however, has proven very difficult, so I stay online, normally. At least the copy protection still isn’t as bad as with some other Ubisoft titles (like “The Settlers 7” or “Assassin’s Creed 2”).

Apart from this, however, I have nothing to complain about. The new Anno, as far as I have been able to play it so far, is as complex and interesting, as detailed and good-looking, as much an Anno as the ones before it.

A Blocky Harry Potter

As you probably have realized, I am guilty of not posting my weekend update for last week. You won’t be seeing one for this week, either. Instead I will give you a few posts about what I am playing.

Last weekend it was “LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7”. I have enjoyed all games of the LEGO adventures series I have played so far (which means all safe for LEGO Star Wars: Clone Wars). Some I have enjoyed more and some I have enjoyed less, however. The Harry Potter games I definitely have enjoyed more.

All LEGO adventure games have nice and very funny cutscenes, slapstick versions of what you see in the movies, normally. What goes for the others, goes for LEGO Harry Potter, too. As the game follows the movies rather than the novels, the second one has just as many levels as the first – since book 7 was split up into two movies.

The new game is just as great as the first one was. Between levels, you can explore Hogwarts or shop in Diagon Alley. There’s also the story and the free mode for each level – once you have finished the level in story mode, with the characters that you should control during the level, you can return to it in free mode. To find all secrets and enter all places in a level, you will need free mode, as you will need to take different characters with different abilities with you. This way, you earn golden stones for a special object, find new character coins (that allow you to buy the characters and use them in free mode) and earn more studs, the currency in all LEGO games that allows you to buy stuff in the first place.

Hogwarts alone is a place you can explore for hours, it’s full of secret places and objects to manipulate (and Weasley Wizarding Wheezes boxes – warning: only open with a Weasley character!). Add the levels you can replay various times, in order to find new stuff and earn more studs, and you will be occupied for a long time. After I had finished the complete story mode, I still had only solved 30.3% of the whole game!

The levels themselves are interesting, too. There’s new spells to learn for Harry and his friends, new abilities to discover in some characters and a lot of nice cutscenes. The story mode follows the story of the movies, including some memory scenes (such as Snape’s worst memory) and a very nice fairy tale part (the tale of the Deathly Hallows).

After the last new LEGO release (Pirates of the Caribbean), I had worried a bit about the series, as it seemed to have burned down to ‘same old’. This game, however, shows that there is still room for ‘more new’ instead. And will occupy my time for quite a while, between other games.