Hidden Gems – Pogo Island

Genre:  Card and Board, Arcade, Word, Puzzle
Platform:  DS

I believe I have expressed my satisfaction with Pogo.com previously on this site, so it’s no surprise that I really enjoyed this compilation of 5 different Pogo games, Pogo Island for the Nintendo DS.  This game contains a couple of my favorites – Word Whomp, Tri-Peaks Solitaire, Phlinx, Squelchies and Poppit.  Each game is fun in its own right and I can easily play them for hours on end.  This is a great game for travel for me.  Just pop it in and the time on planes just flies by (pun intended).

This game also lets you collect tokens as you play and upload them to your Pogo account, which is a nice bonus.  If you’re a fan of Pogo games or just solitaire games in general, I think that you will really enjoy this one.  I happened to have found it by accident in a GameStop one day and picked it up immediately.  I had never heard of it before, so it was a true hidden gem.


Hidden Gems – Puzzler World

Genre:  Puzzle/Word
Platform:  Nintendo DS

This game was close to making my top 25, but I felt I had enough puzzle games there.  This entry on the Nintendo DS is a collection of many different types of puzzles including hangman, picture puzzles, crosswords, word searches, sudoku and many more!  There were actually four games in this series, and they may not be done.  Any one of them is great and they each add or remove something from a previous game.  There was one released for the Nintendo DS, two for the 3DS and one downloadable for the 3DS.

It all started on the DS, however, so that’s where I’ll start, too.  I have spent many, many hours on this game.  It’s great for quick bursts of puzzling fun.  The later levels will start to take longer to solve.  Toward the end, it was taking me 20+ minutes for some of the more detailed puzzles.  The stylus, as usual, is perfect for puzzle games like this.  The crosswords are handled well as you can write the letters on the screen and it is able to detect them.  It may take a bit of tweaking in the settings for it to recognize certain letters, but once it’s dialed in, it’s near-perfect.

The variety of games is nice and will keep your brain occupied.  They are a great mix of logic puzzles and word games.  You don’t have to play any that you don’t want to, which is nice.  Many games only unlock games as you play, but this one lets you have full reign.  There are also challenge modes in some versions, where the puzzles are a bit harder.  My favorite are the word searches (I’m just a sucker for them) and the link-a-pix, which is the ambulance picture above.

You may not have heard of the series, but it’s a must if you like puzzle games as much as I do!

Chey’s Top 25 – #14 – Picross 3D

Genre:  Puzzle
Platform:  Nintendo DS

I have played through this game three times total and have played through it perfectly once.  According to my DS, I have spent over 200 hours playing this game.  I will probably play it another 200 in my lifetime.  It was a new way of thinking for me and the only puzzle game of its kind that I’ve ever played.  And it is challenging and so much fun.

I had never played a picross game before, so the switch to 3D was non-existent for me.  I have played them religiously since, but this was my intro to the genre.  This is a logic game through and through.  You are presented with a cube or other shape with numbers on the outside of it.  Your job is to whittle away at the cube until you reveal the hidden shape inside.  The numbers are clues to help you do this.  The stylus and touch screen make this a breeze and fun.  They represent how many cubes are in each row or column.  Getting started is pretty easy as long as you have either 0’s (none of the cubes belong in that row) or the maximum numbers of cubes for the row (all belong).  From there, you can work your way through it and figure out which cubes belong there and which don’t.

The most challenging part of this game is the perfection, though.  To get a perfect score, you need to complete a level perfectly and within their time limit.  It forces you to think a bit more quickly than you might like, which means that you are apt to make mistakes.  I had to replay some levels six or seven times to get it perfect.  Some puzzles took upwards of 25 minutes to complete.  And I loved every second of it.

If you like logic and puzzle games, definitely get this one.  There’s is a sequel released in Japan, but 3DS games are region-locked, so I’d have to get a Japanese 3DS to play it, which I’m not going to do.  There are rumors that it is going to be released in Europe, so I’m hoping they extend that to the US as well.

Hidden Gems – Cartoon Conductor

Genre:  Rhythm
Platform:  Nintendo DS

A lot of Nintendo DS games are making my hidden gems list.  It is a great platform and the use of the touch screen and stylus make for some unique games.  I can’t really say that Looney Tunes Cartoon Conductor is unique as it uses the same game play mechanics as another very good game, Elite Beat Agents.  Elite Beat Agents actually wasn’t unique, either, as it is an American version of the Japanese release, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan .

None of that really matters, though.  Cartoon Conductor combines the great game play of those two games with the silliness of the Looney Tunes.  As you work through the songs, you’ll be treated to funny cut scenes of some of the more famous Looney Tunes cartoons.  Who can forget “Kill the Wabbit?”  All of your favorite characters are here – Foghorn Leghorn, Tweety and Sylvester, Speedy Gonzales, Bugs and Elmer and the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote.  The soundtrack is also great, but it’s all classical music.  I happen to like that, but if it’s not your thing, you may not enjoy this game.

There are different difficulties.  In this type of rhythm game, you tap and drag your stylus with the music to match what is on the screen.  It isn’t always intuitive, though, so it can get a bit frustrating.  The graphics also aren’t great and I think it would have been better if they had used the actual cartoons instead of an attempt at 3D.  Despite this, though, I would recommend playing it at least once.  Not everyone is going to love it, but I found it entertaining.

Chey’s Top 25 – #17 – Puzzle Quest

Genre:  Match-3, RPG
Platform:  All, I think.  I have it for Nintendo DS and XBox 360.

Having long been a fan of match-3 type of games, you can imagine my delight at finding a game that combined that simple game play with RPG elements.  I believe this was one of the first games I downloaded from the XBox Live arcade, many years ago.  I have played the poo out of this game.  I have played it all the way through at least 10 times, which is no small feat because there’s a lot of grinding involved in it.  I personally think the DS version of the game is best due to the use of the stylus.

This game has you create a character from a few different classes and start on your merry way.  It has some “save the princess” story, but there are definitely twists on it.  For example, you have the option to help the princess escape her situation of forced marriage and be a badass with you on the road.  Of course I did this.  Screw the man!

As you play, you level up and get to assign points for different attributes which increase the game play.  As you encounter certain enemies, you can “capture” them by completing an often-challenging mini game.  Once you do that, you learn the spells it knows, allowing you greater ability to customize your character.  You can also lay siege to cities, build a citadel with various beneficial buildings, train mounts and research spells.

The “Quest” part of this game is no laughing matter.  There are a TON of quests to do, and it may take you hours of grinding to become powerful enough to complete some of them.  That was fine with me, however, because this is a super fun game.  There have been a few other versions of it.  I never gave Puzzle Quest 2 a fair shake and I’ll go back to it someday.  I didn’t like Puzzle Quest Galactrix, which is hexagonal and set in space.  There’s also a Marvel version which is quite good, too.  But I would first check out the original and its expansion, which is always included with the original game.  Have fun!

Stinkers – Silly Bandz

Genre:  Puzzle
Platform:  Nintendo DS

First, what are “silly bandz”?  Seriously, I had no idea what they are.  Do kids shoot them at one another like rubber bands?  Because that’s what this game will make you think.  The game even came with a package of them, but I still have no idea what they are.  Ok, after a quick Google search, it appears that kids wear these things like bracelets.  They don’t look too comfortable:

Silly Bandz; NS sillybandz story pic 1 only

I guess they are shaped differently and have some sort of collectible appeal?

So how could you possibly make a game about this?  Angry Birds ripoff!  It tempted me with the promise of collecting the “silly bandz” (you know how much I like to collect things), but the collection screen only shows you a small amount that you’ve collected, not everything.  The game itself is a short one, with about 2 hours to finish.  If you strive for 3 stars on each level, though, good luck.  After playing through a few levels as well as I could, I only got two (out of three) stars twice.  The game doesn’t allow you to zoom out nearly far enough, so you’re really guessing on your shots, which can be frustrating.  The music is repetitive and doesn’t add anything to the game.  It does increase in difficulty as you progress, but I had no desire to keep playing after about 1.5 hours.

If this game had somehow made it onto your radar, get rid of it.  It’s not fun at all.

Chey’s Top 25 – #20 – Peggle

Genre:  Puzzle/Arcade
Platform:  Pretty much all; I have it for PC, Nintendo DS, XBox 360 and XBone (Peggle 2).  It’s on iOS (Apple phones) and Android as well.

Peggle was another one of those games that I instantly said “YES MORE PLEASE” and played for hours until I realized that a lack of sleep will, in fact, make you insane.  This is a highly addictive game.  It’s also a fairly simple one.  Simply clear all of the orange pegs from the board by bouncing a metal ball off of them.  It’s not too difficult, but it is if you take into account some of the additional challenges for each level.

There are different “masters” to unlock as you play.  Each has a special ability to help you complete the levels in new and fun ways.  For example, there’s one that gives you a multiball and another that gives you pinball-like flippers at the bottom.  Each character has their own personality and the game can be funny at times.

There is no learning curve at all with this game, either.  You will instantly know how to play it, so there’s no excuse for not picking it up (I’m looking at you, Mom!).  There was an expansion for Peggle – Peggle Nights – which is more of the same, but there is a slightly different twist on the story.  Totally worth it.

One of the things that I like most about this game is how it makes a big deal if you succeed.  You’ll be treated to fireworks on the screen, loud “Hallelujah” music and flashy text.  You’re awesome, and it lets you know it!  The other sounds effects are playful and fun as well.

There’s also Peggle 2, which I’m going to bundle right in here as well.  It has different masters, except two.  My favorite is the homage to The Big Lebowski.  The game play is the same basic concept.  Aim ball, shoot at pegs, get high score.

Everyone should play this game.  It’s fun, funny and will keep you entertained for hours!


Hidden Gems – Pic Pic for the DS


Genre:  Puzzle
Platform:  Nintendo DS

I only first learned about Pic Pic about a year ago while looking for good Picross games.  This is not a picross game, but a collection of three different puzzle game modes.  It’s got a whopping 400 puzzles for each mode, so you’ll be busy for a while.  This game kept me enthralled for hours and hours and I’m sure I’ll play it more in the future.

The first game mode is Maze Paint.  In this mode, you complete a maze to draw a picture.  The modes all start easy and get harder as you go.  This was a fun mode to play, especially once I got to the later modes.

Pic Pic Maze

The second mode is Drawing.  I had played this type of game before and really enjoyed it.  You paint a picture by drawing lines between two numbers.  The number tells you how many squares that line will use.  It can get challenging, but it is rewarding when you finally figure out that section you’ve been working on for five minutes.

Pic Pic Link-a-Pix

The final mode is my favorite, Magipic.  You are given a set of numbers telling you how many squares around it are filled in.  This creates a picture.  It was also the hardest of the modes and had the steepest learning curve.  However, it’s very rewarding once you “get it”.

Pic Pic Magic Number

This game is really hard to find.  I got mine off of Ebay for around $30, but it’s tough to find now.  It’s a Europe- or Japan-only game and was never released in the US.  Fortunately, the Nintendo DS is not region locked (but the 3DS is), meaning you can play any game from any region on any device.  The 3DS can play any region’s DS game, just not 3DS games.  If you can find it and like puzzle games, I strongly recommend it.