Oldies But Goodies – Number Munchers

Genre:  Educational
Platform:  PC

I came in to school at a great time in history.  Home computers were newly affordable, which meant that they had a couple of them in schools.  They began using games as teaching tools, and we were learning while having fun and not even realizing it.  One of these early games that I remember is Number Muchers.  There were several “Munchers” games after that, but this was the first.

You played as the hero, the number muncher.  I’m not sure what you were trying to save and I don’t think there was much of a story behind this game.  Anyway, it was your job to “munch” the numbers (press the space bar) that fit the category at the top.  It typically focused in number multiples, but sometimes it would be prime numbers and other varieties.  The Troggles attempted to foil your plans for heroism.  They were cute monsters that were trying to eat you.  Every time you moved a square, they moved a square.  They started out pretty random, but on later levels, they had some AI and made the game more and more difficult.

I remember this game very fondly.  So much, in fact, that I just bought a Number Munchers t-shirt.  You can still find this game online in various forms.  If you want to play the original, you can find it on abandonware sites and play it using a DOS emulator such as DOSBox.  It’s a blast from my past and I’d be interested to know how many of you also played this game in school!

The Original XBox Came Out 15 Years Ago

xbox-1

Do you want to feel old?  15 years ago today, Microsoft XBox hit the stores.  I had a friend who worked at Target and he set one aside for me on launch day.  I was so excited to fire this up.  At the time, the PS2 was king and nobody really thought this device would pose much of a threat.  The XBox original may not have hurt PS2 much, but its successors have certainly taken their share of Playstation and Nintendo’s console market.  The launch titles were pretty impressive – I picked up Halo, Project Gotham Racing, Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 2, Fuzion Frenzy and Azurik.  I remember it well.  I took it home, popped in Halo and had a ton of fun.

The controllers were initially wired (remember those?) and the controller was HUGE.  They slimmed it down a bit later, but those first controllers were hand-stretchers.  The graphics were unlike any seen up until that point and it had *gasp* an internal hard drive!  You no longer needed memory cards, although you could still use them if you wanted to take your save data with you.  It had a built-in ethernet port for online capability.  I was able to burn music to the hard drive and play it as a custom playlist in many games.

I really loved this old system and I have one today to play some of my favorites which haven’t been ported to the newer XBox consoles (namely SSX Tricky).  15 years really flies by when you’re having fun.

Genre:  Puzzle
Platform:  DS and 3DS

I can’t believe I’ve never written about Professor Layton before now.  This is a puzzle series exclusively on the Nintendo DS and 3DS.  There are currently the following games in the series:

  • Curious Village
  • Diabolical Box
  • Unwound Future
  • Last Sceptre
  • Miracle Mask
  • Azran Legacy

There is also a Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright game for the 3DS, but I have not played it yet.  I am going to lump all of these games in one post because they are all very similar.  The stories change and you get new puzzles in each game.  It doesn’t matter, though, as this is a fantastic series and should be played by every puzzle lover.  Some of the puzzles are down-right hard and I had to grab a pencil and paper on more than one occasion.  They really test different parts of your brain – you’ll get a math question and the next a word puzzle.  Fortunately, they allow you hints for coins that you find while working on the regular story.  If not for this, I wouldn’t have been able to continue in some spots.

In addition to the puzzles, the stories are compelling and you’ll enjoy following Professor Layton and his various companions throughout the series.  You don’t need to play them in order, either.  If you are a puzzle lover, (like me!)  you need to pick up one of these games!  Good luck stopping at just one.

Stinkers – Jumble Madness

Genre:  Word/Puzzle
Platform:  DS

I love puzzle games, especially word games.  And I REALLY wanted to like this game.  I was excited to get it and it cost more than your average word game.  I played it for a good couple of hours, but it just never grabbed me.

If you’re not aware of them, Jumbles are puzzles that have been around American newspapers for a very long time, since at least 1962.  I have enjoyed them for a while, though they are not my first choice of word puzzle.  Anyway, I found that this game was far too easy.  It’s not a fun puzzle if you can solve it in 20 seconds.  This game has some sort of story mode, but it didn’t add anything to the game.  It also has a strange “word-jong” mode, which just has you matching letters like a shanghai-tile game.

If you were looking at this one, skip it.  It’s not much fun.

Genre:  Hidden Object
Platform:  PC

It’s election day here in the US, and things are looking grim.  As a bit of social commentary, I’d like to share a fun game which I feel is appropriate for my mood.  In Papers, Please you play as a lowly checkpoint worker for your government, the country of Arstotzka, reminiscent of iron-curtain Europe or the USSR.  Your job is to inspect the paperwork of people that want to enter your country.  Your life depends upon your performance.  The more people you process, the more money you make, which means your family can afford to eat for another day.  You’re screwed if anyone gets sick, and you’ll really start to feel the pressure as you watch your wife or children slowly starving to death.

This game really does bring about some ethical dilemmas for which there are no clear cut answers.  Do you help the secret underground or the lady that is just trying to see her daughter?  Or do you stick tight to your duty and deny all without proper documentation?

I call this game a hidden object game as I’m not sure how else to classify it.  You have an instruction booklet to refer to.  The documentation gets more and more complicated as you play.  You have to have a really sharp eye to be good at this game, thus the hidden object aspect.  Eventually, you’ll get to start body scanning for hidden weapons.  I made it through an entire month of the game at one point and that was really tough.

This game is very unique and a lot of fun.  It can feel a bit heavy if you let yourself get wrapped up in the story, which I did.  Check this one out!

girls-that-play-video-games

As a member of the female portion of our society, I feel that I’ve got some expertise in the area of girl/women gamers.  Having played a MMO in the early days of MMOs, I have probably seen it all when it comes to how women are portrayed and treated in video games.  I feel the cartoon above really sums this article up – we are not treasures to be sought and we are not fodder for trolls.  We are just people trying to have fun and relax by playing a game.  This is a two-part article.  The first is going to focus on my experience as a female gamer.  The second will focus more on how women are portrayed in video games and how that has affected me.

When I started going online and playing games, way back in 1997, it was a bit of a different world than it is today.  I usually played a female character because, well, I’m female.  I was also just fresh out of high school and a bit naive.  If I really wanted to be left alone, I would create a male character, but this was usually in World of Warcraft because that community is the worst of any I’ve seen.  Gaming was so largely a male-dominated thing that most people just assumed I was male.  The more brave of the guys would ask if I actually was a girl before they started to hit on me and try to lure me to their homes to “play together”.  Oh yeah, that was far more common than you might like to believe.  And I even went to visit a couple, but naive me thought that they were interested in the person that I was instead of my boobs.  Wrong.  Every time wrong.  Now, to be fair, I did end up marrying one of these guys and another is my longest-running friend (we have been talking online since 1996).  However, it seemed that I couldn’t play an online game session without someone sending me a message relating to sex in one way or another.

I quickly found that my place in gaming was as a sex object and that I was a rare commodity.  I didn’t really like the attention, but it was always there.  I like to think that I earned some respect through my game play, but that’s probably just wishful thinking.  Gaming for me wasn’t about my accomplishments as a gamer, but instead as my gender.  “So why is this a problem?”, you might be thinking to yourself.  This greatly affected my self esteem.  I wasn’t an equal in this community at all.  I was only there for their entertainment, and if I could play, that was just a bonus.  I don’t play online much anymore and haven’t much since I married my husband.  He is not one of those guys – he’s quite progressive and encourages me to do whatever I want in life.  We are equals and he treats me as such.

Many men that read this will likely think that I am a feminist and too sensitive.  I don’t dislike men.  In fact, I get along better with men than women.  I don’t believe that all of those guys are bad people, either.  I think the internet affords a sense of anonymity which allows them to say things that they would never say to the women that they know in their lives.  This is the same principle that applies to trolls online.  Nobody knows who they really are, so there are no consequences.  But obviously, the sentiment is most likely real and it is troubling.

Brain Games – Brain Age 2

Genre:  Eductional
Platform:  Nintendo DS

Video games are fun, but we can also be taught while we play them.  And we have fun doing so.  There are tons of games in this category for the DS alone.  One of the best examples that I can think of in this category is Brain Age 2 for the Nintendo DS.  There’s a Brain Age 1, but I haven’t played it.  I’m sure it’s just as good, but Brain Age 2 is what I know.

This game is designed to help keep your brain sharp.  You’re not going to feel like a whiz if you play this all day.  You’re supposed to play it in short bursts, but do so every day.  I did this for about a month and I do feel like it helped a bit.  My memory increased, or it felt like it did, which is a big deal for me because I have a terrible short-term memory.

This collection of exercises includes math, memory, logic, music and other types of games.  They are all fun in their own right.  My favorite were the music games, but that’s probably because I’m a musical person.  There aren’t enough music theory games out there.  I am going to go research those games to see if there are any.  Anyway, I would recommend trying this out if you want to give your brain a little workout every morning.

brain-age-2-1