video games

[Review] Time Hollow (DS) is Time Well Spent

Who wouldn’t like to go back in time and change bad events into good ones? I know there are some mistakes I wouldn’t mind righting…That is the premise of Time Hollow, an adventure visual novel game I picked up last week for the DS. A twisty and turny plot, great graphics and overall great gameplay make Time Hollow one you want to play on the DS.

Time Hollow tells the story of Ethan, a teenager whose parents mysteriously go missing overnight. He wakes up to discover they had actually disappeared twelve years ago…and that he is now living in some weird parallel universe. He finds a special “hollow pen” tied to his pet cat’s collar, and Ethan soon discovers this pen can be used to open a portal to the past. Each portal he opens with the pen allows him to change elements of the past and thus the outcome of the future. Of course, with each portal Ethan creates, there is always a domino effect that can sometimes backfire on him. I won’t say any more about the plot as I might end up spoiling it for you so I’ll stop right there.

Right off the bat, Time Hollow looks good, complete with smooth graphics and natural voiceovers. The game even has a decent opening track that I found myself tapping my foot to. My only complaint about the gameplay is that sometimes I felt a bit lost as to where I was supposed to go to next, but unlike HOGs where you have to constantly backtrack and click through the scenes to your next location, Time Hollow gives players a map, where all you do is click a location to be transported to it. This is one game that I found myself looking forward to seeing how the story would end.

After I finished Time Hollow, I decided to read what others thought of it. Frankly, I couldn’t believe the number of negative reviews people gave it, and I am confused as to why. Its score on Metacritic is 64%, including a 5.5 out of 10 given by Gamespot…I say: ignore all the nay-sayers and play Time Hollow yourself. I really enjoyed it, and I think it’s a solid adventure game for the DS.

Time Hollow
Developer: Tenky / Publisher: Konami
Released: September 2008 (N.A.)

Credit: labelinteractive.com

[Review] Women’s Murder Club (Nintendo DS): Games of Passionate Housekeeping

Something is cooking at the San Francisco police department’s homicide squad. Bodies are piling up, and it’s up to Lindsay Boxer to solve the cases; a detective who perpetually stays out late partying with her girlfriends. She is meticulous with cleaning up the murder scene before she takes evidence, interrogates people with misinformation, and at the end of a long day, hangs with her lawyer / journalist / forensics friends while they gossip about Lindsay’s latest cases. This is what you have in store while diving into James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club: Games of Passion game for the Nintendo DS. Also, if this is the type of plot James Patterson writes, I think his career should be in trouble.

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Okay, I admit, that was a cheap shot. To be fair, I am not a James Patterson fan at all. I read When the Wind Blows years ago, and it didn’t leave a good impression on me. I am also not familiar with the series of books that stars four “crime fighting” friends by Patterson that also spun off into a TV series, but whatever. Who am I to pass on a potentially decent game that would combine my love for reading and my enjoyment of hidden object games?

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Games of Passion is a murder mystery, interspersed with very easy hidden object games. The graphics are nice throughout the game actually. It’s the story itself that, at times, seems confusing, convoluted and convenient and really not based in reality. Case in point: what detective arrives at a crime scene and decides to do some housekeeping, clearing clutter and garbage before picking up evidence? Isn’t that evidence-tampering? I get that this was a ploy to allow players to have some hidden object element, but really – is Lindsay a homicide detective or Molly Maid?

Yeah, that’s just weird…

I don’t know if maybe I have the attention span of a gnat, or that my reading comprehension is off, but you almost need to take notes to remember who did what. Thankfully, Games of Passion is a no-lose game for doofuses like me who can’t figure out what “suspect” left what object where, and who did what. That said, Lindsay would report back to her friends who she suspects, and if you got the suspect wrong, her friends would say, “that doesn’t sound right to me” without being penalized. Whew! I thought for sure I’d be kicked out of the Women’s Murder Club for naming the wrong suspect!

I also need to point one major gameplay flaw – for whatever reason, the game often doesn’t detect when you are selecting an object with your stylus. You have to press sort of next to the item you are trying to select. I have read a few other reviews on this game, and this seems to be a well-known problem with Games of Passion.

Overall, James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club: Games of Passion is for very casual gamers who like to read while gaming, and like to play simple hidden object puzzles.

James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club: Games of Passion
Developer: THQ / Publisher: Griptonite Games
Released: September 2009

Photo credit: 1. technologytell.com /2. IGN /3. Personal photo

 

[Review] Murder, She Wrote (PC): A ‘Deadly’ Gaming Spin-off

Murder, She Wrote was a TV show that ran from 1984 to 1996 and starred Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher, a mystery writer from the quiet fictional town of Cabot Cove, Maine, who, in each episode, happens upon a murder, and who seems to figure out ‘whodunit’ by the end of the show…It was my Mom’s favourite show to watch on Sunday nights, and anytime it’s on TV on reruns, I am tempted to tune in to immerse myself in nostalgia.

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That is why when I heard that there was actually going to be a Jessica Fletcher hidden object game, I was intrigued, thinking, ‘How the heck are they going to pull that off?’concluding with, ‘It’s gonna be cheesy!’ After playing Murder, She Wrote: The Game – Part 1, I have to say the game’s developers, Legacy Games, tried very hard not to make the game suck, bringing in acclaimed Murder, She Wrote writer, Dr. Anne Del Borgo to write the stories behind the game. I also read where Angela Lansbury agreed to have her likeness used in the game (but she wasn’t involved in its production).

Murder, She Wrote – Part 1 is a big game that has five mystery stories within it. The stories are primarily based in familiar Cabot Cove, and each with its own murder mystery that Jessica tries to solve. Some familiar characters are there, such as Seth, the town Doctor, and of course, Mort, the Sheriff, who is his same suspicious self.

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– Hey, you’re wearin’ gloves! You out to murder someone? -Um, I wear gloves ’cause I’m a fishmonger, sir…

The graphics are well done, not too detailed but well-drawn. What is most interesting is the quality of the voice acting. I couldn’t help but hear a bit of Angela Lansbury in the voice actor, even though it wasn’t her; they certainly got her cadence right.

The hidden object component is fun. Some of the games give you a list of hidden objects whose words are missing vowels (sort of a puzzle within the puzzle). The vowels are filled in once you locate missing typewriter keys which are scattered around the scene you are searching.

The game gives you a 20 minute timer for each puzzle. In some scenes, you are solving puzzles around dead bodies, which, for Jessica Fletcher, seems to be a normal day, so if corpses bother you, I guess you’ll be passing on this one.

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Let’s just look for some items, and –oops! Yeah, watch out for that there body…

This game is a win-win for HOG lovers and fans of Murder, She Wrote. Part 1 really captures the simplicity of the show and the richness of the characters from the original series. I’m looking very much forward to playing the sequel, Part 2.

BTW, if you are looking to purchase this game, it’s cheaper to buy from Legacy Games – $6.95. Big Fish Games is selling it for $10.21. Just putting that out there.

Murder, She Wrote – Part 1
Developer: Legacy Games
Released: November 2009

Photo credit: 1. fbcdn-sphotos-e-a.akamaihd.net /2. greenman gaming /3. i2.ytimg.com

Ubiquitous First Blog Post!

Right off the bat, I’m not a gaming expert  at all, nor the most sophisticated gamer, but I have been playing video games for years. I am a 30-something female who happens to have a spouse who games heavily and who encourages me to play whatever game whenever possible.

Over the last few years, I’ve been getting my feet wet in more complex genres of gaming, such as Survival Horror and Shoot ‘Em Ups. It’s been a challenge getting used to some of the controls of the different gaming systems, and I’m not the best gamer but I’m learning! The type of gaming genre I really enjoy, however, is Casual Gaming; more specifically, Hidden Object (HOG) and Adventure puzzle games. Both types of gaming satisfy me in different ways for different reasons. Many hardcore gamers are bored to death by HOGs and that’s okay by me. I just know what kinds of games I’m attracted to and what I want to spend my time playing. These days, I am playing Off the Record:  Linden Shades (HOG) on the PC, and Borderlands 2 on Steam; both games are polar opposites in terms of  genre and I am digging them both.

I have an old green spiral notebook that I have been using to keep track of all the Casual HOG and Adventure Games I’ve played (just so I can keep track and not duplicate – their titles all start to sound alike!). I’ve listed over 50 games in the last two years, and this doesn’t include all the Action Role-Play (RPG) First-Person-Shooter (FPS) games I play with my hubs.

This blog is going to be a diary of my gaming experiences. I’m not sure where this journal will take me or if I’ll follow through with it, but at the very least I will have a record of what I have accomplished so far,  in the event my old green spiral notebook falls victim to a “spilled-coffee incident” or some such.