Jud’s Artwork – What I’m doing when not blogging!

This gallery contains 15 photos.


New work added. JUD’S ARTWORK            Across the Plain                                       Divided          Jellyfish Jaunt     … Continue reading

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CHRISTMAS STORIES 3: HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN’S TIN SOLDIER – Collector’s Edition


by ELEPHANT GAMES; BIGFISH GAMES

MORE XMAS FUN!

Story:  Bundle up and prepare for an exciting adventure this holiday season! After receiving a desperate letter from your old nut-cracking friend, Albert, you rush to help him. When you arrive, you learn that the Rat King’s evil wand has fallen into the hands of a vengeful baron, and now three innocent people – including Albert – have been turned into toys! Team up with the Nutcracker and your new friend, the Tin Soldier, to fight trolls and destroy the Baron’s curse in this delightful Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure game! (Big Fish Sales Blurb)

Options:   This is great and includes a Gamma setting so you can lighten it up a little if you need to.

Music & Voice-Overs:    The Music is classical, very suitable for the story, and not annoying at all – a variety of Tchaikovsky’s ballet music, including SWAN LAKE and NUTCRACKER SUITE.  The Voice-Overs are really well chosen, and add to,rather than detract from, the playing experience.

Extras:   Wallpapers; Music; Screensaver; Bonus Game; Collectibles; Concept Art; Achievements.  The Strategy Guide is on the game Desktop.  There are no Play HOPs or Play Puzzles in the Extras/Bonus content.  You have to Mouse-Over various areas of the Bonus Content screen in order to see this content – it appears as just a lovely colourful location with no Extras List on it.

Desktop:    Charlie (Tin Soldier); Menu, Map (Left); Inventory (Centre); Albert (Nutcracker) Hints, Toy Maker (Potions, Magic), Strat Guide (Right).

Tutorial:    Good, informative, but a little intrusive at times.

Graphics:   Gloriously colourful, imaginative, authentic for the ‘Tin Soldier’ Era, though a bit blurred in the HOPs which I would have thought Elephant Games would have stopped doing by now, as it discriminates against visually impaired players.

Play Modes:    Nina’s Mode; Charlie’s Mode; Nutcracker’s Mode; Custom Mode.

Map:    Interactive; colourful; helpful especially if unsure of next move.

HOPs:   The usual Elephant Games innovative HOPs, with Lists, and Shapes, and Zoom sites within the HOPs – all Interactive.

Puzzles:   A really good variety of Puzzles – some easy, some frustrating.  But you can Skip the latter.

Collections:   Puzzle pieces (Jigsaw); Miniatures in pink gift boxes.

Game-play:   This is a little awkward  and confusing in the early stages, but this settles as you adjust to the peculiarities of this game.  There are all sorts of magical tricks that take you to unexpected places.  You can use a potion to temporarily shrink you to allow you through a tiny door, and another to make other creatures huge.  To talk with the Characters you click on them, then from a pop-up list of questions, you click on the one you wish to ask them, until they have all been asked.  You also need to put the outside stars into the Magic Star Collecting Jar.

Player Participation:   This is good, continual, and quite hands-on with repairs and usage of Items.

Satisfaction Factor:   Once the Game-play became clear this was entirely satisfying.  Very enjoyable, as it included the Nutcracker, the Tin Soldier, the Rat King’s Heir, Nina Ballerina, the Toy Maker, Evil Jack-in-a-Box, and even Box Trolls.

Frustration Factors:   Mainly the tendency to slide too easily out of HOPs into previous screen; the blurred Graphics in the HOPs; and a few of the Puzzles that were too random or refused to resolve – hate those sliding tile games to form a picture, where they can only move into the space.  So rarely solvable.

Bonus Game:    This was also more of the same great Graphics, and Game-play with a slight change in some Characters.  Very enjoyable.

I highly recommend this game as it has all the elements needed in a good Xmas Game, is entertaining, very Interactive, and great for all the family.

Jud House 12/12/2014

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Posted in FAMILY GAMES, FANTASY, STORY-BOOK GAMES | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WHISPERED SECRETS: INTO THE WIND – Collector’s Edition


by GrandMA GAMES; BIGFISH GAMES

CRIME, FANTASY!

Story:  You’ve been called to the riverside town of Ridleton to investigate a series of missing persons. Strange storms have been sweeping through the town, and with each appearance… comes a disappearance. Who’s behind the unnatural weather, and how are they choosing their victims? To find out, you’ll need the help of a tough-as-nails Huntress and a well-trained red panda. But you’ll all have to work fast… There’s a storm brewing in this exciting Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure game! (Big Fish Sales Blurb)

Options & Main Menu:    Good simple Options.  Main Menu and Loading Graphics a real treat.  MM is really well laid out, and you can access the Bonus Chapter and Hidden Chapter via the PLAY button, once you have completed the Main Story and collected all the Flames.

Music & Voice-Overs:    These are all excellent, adding extra dimensions to the story, along with the Sound Effects of course, which are also well devised.

Extras:     Achievements; Wallpapers; Concept Art; Music; Movies; Flames – this final Button/Link lets you access the wall of Flames collected throughout the Main Story and Bonus Chapter, where you can click on the unlit torches to enter the scenes in order to find and collect any missing flames.  You then complete the Flame painting by swapping discs around to unlock the Hidden Chapter.

Desktop:     Album, Menu, Strategy Guide (Left); Inventory (centre); Red Panda (helper), Map, Hints (Right).

Tutorial:    This is really good, informative and efficient.  Even though I rarely need it, I always use it, not only because I need to see how it functions to report it in these Reviews, but in case there are any distinct differences from other games.  Game-Play is generally similar among all these HOP games, but every now and then an unexpected innovation takes a game to new levels and you don’t want to get to the end of a game and find you needed to collect something specific, or find yourself scratching your head as you try to work out why the HOPs or Puzzles aren’t following the usual pattern.  My advice is to always check out the Tutorial – you may learn something.

Graphics:   OMG!  these Graphics are seriously gorgeous!  The Loading Page, the Main menu, the Extras Menu, and the actual Game Graphics are gloriously colourful, sumptuous, brilliant in every aspect – creatures, settings, costumes, characters, atmospherics, magical manifestations, flora and fauna, the lot!  So impressive.  I just wanted to wallow in them, to play on and on and on  – so much so that I found myself going Back & Forth through the scenes rather than jumping via the Map – though of course I did a fair bit of that as well.  :D

Play Modes:   Casual; Advances; Hard Core.

Map:    Interactive.  This is really good, well designed, could be just a little more explicit with its indicators/markers.  If there are none showing then you need to check in your Inventory as there is probably an Item that needs repairing/an addition/mainpulating so that you can then use it in a scene.  You gain several Mini-Maps during the game, that are part Puzzles, and needed to take you to the next main location.

HOPs:   These are really diverse, and have a MATCH 3 Alternative.  There are the main Interactive Lists; Shapes/ Silhouettes; Story HOPs where you need to find 3 x 3 Items hidden in the illustrations of the story on it’s pages – these are really hard to find at times so persevere and search carefully.  I don’t think you can get a Hint for these and if you Skip it I think it may Skip that whole story segment as well.  There are also zoom-window Mini-HOPs that require you to find the missing pieces scattered around ‘in the air’.  At first this is confusing as it asks you to find the missing parts and reassemble the Item, but you can’t see any lying around when you back out to find them.  You have to remain IN the zoom window and collect the parts from outside the zoom window.  Kind of weird.

Puzzles:   These are diverse and many.  There are more Puzzles than HOPs.  Most of them are interesting, vary in length and difficulty, relatively enjoyable dependent upon their logic content.  I Skipped a few – there was one in particular that required absolute hand/mouse control.  It didn’t require speed as well, but it is still impossible to do if your hands are shaky.  This is a shame as it was a good puzzle – the designers need to make sure that at all times they do not inadvertently discriminate against the less physically able players.

Collections:   Flames – 4 per scene – they sparkle/glimmer to show where they are.  Click o them and they flare up and are marked off on the pop-out window.

Game-play:   On the whole the Game-play follows the usual HOP pattern, but with little twists that are diverting and fun.  The Story drives the game, and is kept in the forefront all the time which is great – you have a reason for everything you do in the game.  It follows a logical path, with the Mini-Maps taking you to the next stage each time.  At the new locations confusion can occur as you may have very little or nothing in your Inventory and have to scout around to find Items to help you progress.  Make sure you check over all the scene/screen as you can easily miss a key area that leads to a HOP, or the relevant item.

Player Participation:   The game is quite Hands-On – you undo bolts to remove faucets/taps, then move them to the new location, place them on, then do up the bolts, step by step.  PP is high as a result of this type of play.

Satisfaction Factor:     All three games are very satisfying indeed – the Bonus Chapter resolves an issue that arises from the completed, yet somehow not quite resolved, Main Story.  The Hidden Chapter is a neat little addition, taxes you a little further, is all played in the one scene, which makes you wonder where you can get what you need when everything you open needs something!  Enjoy it!

Frustration Factors:    Really the only things that frustrated me were the few Puzzles that were either random clicking, or required really steady hands.  Get rid of these or make them more user friendly.

Bonus Game:   As mentioned, this resolves an issue that arises from the completed, yet somehow not quite resolved, Main Story.  As expected, it has similar Game-play as the Main Story, with less HOPs and quite a few more Puzzles to tackle.

I highly recommend this game, and bought it immediately with 2 Game Credits.

Jud House 10/12/2014

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DARK REALM: QUEEN OF FLAMES – Collector’s Edition


by MAD HEAD GAMES; BIGFISH GAMES

CLEVER CONCEPT!

Story:   The evening started like any other in your village. But without warning, a group of mysterious figures arrives and reduces the town to flames and rubble. What are they… and who is controlling them? Your only way to find out is to flee the village and seek help from the Queen. But you’ll have to lie low to avoid becoming another minion of the flame banshees. Use special abilities and power-ups to make your way through a mystical world in this thrilling Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure! (Big Fish Sales Blurb)

Desktop:     Inventory (Left); Medallion (Stone Whisper/ Flame Shield), Notes Scroll, Map, Achievements/ Guide/Menu(Bottom), Invisibility Boots, Hint (Anvil) (Right).

Extras:  Collectibles Hunt;Wallpapers/ Northpearl Jigsaw; Hidden Object; Cards Gallery; Game of Cards; Achievements; Making-of; Soundtrack.       

Options:     Good.  The Main Menu PLAY button gives you access to the Main Story and the Bonus Chapter.

Music & Voice-Overs:    Both excellent.  It’s really cool when these are not annoying, but gorgeous and appropriate for the genre and setting of the game.

Tutorial:   Quick, efficient, not too intrusive, worth going through as it explains the Medallion and its power after you receive it.

Play Modes:     Spark; Flame; Blaze; Custom.

Map:     Interactive – make full use of it.  It is colourful, helpful, and time-saving.

Graphics:   Gorgeous, colourful, with vibrant static Loading Page, and excellent main Menu graphics.  The game graphics live up to the opening promise, which is wonderful.

HOPs:   There are Interactive Lists where you either move items or collect Items to reveal other pieces behind them – often jigsaw components.  The graphics are good with only the odd blurred Item.  There is also a Morphing Object to find in each HOP.  You can collect the rest of these on completion of the game via the Card Gallery in Extras.

Puzzles:   These are varied, unusual, and enjoyable – with only a few older types that need Skipping due to their lack of logic or instructions, or which you can doggedly continue to play until they suddenly resolve.

Collections:   Flames – one per scene – any you miss can be collected at the end of the game via the Collectibles button under Extras, or I believe via the Flame Icon on the Desktop.

Game-play:   The most important factor of the Game-play is that you can use your Medallion to not only protect yourself and others, but to communicate with Stone Statues who not only provide information but also another Item that you can use to progress forward.  the key is that if you can’t find anything else to do check if the Medallion is glowing on the Desktop Tool-bar.  It usually means that in the scene in which it glows there is something to use it on – like a Stone Statue needing your help and offering info.

Player Participation:   There is plenty of this – in fact one Puzzle you can’t Skip is the need to accurately copy  shapes with your mouse in a given time – for example as sword stroke-patterns in the air to defeat an obstructive soldier.  This action requires dexterity – both speed and accuracy – which is difficult for less physically-abled players.  This factor needs to have Skip activated in the Casual/Easy Modes of play in ALL games.

Satisfaction Factor:     I wrote Fabulous!!!  It proved to be mostly that.  Very satisfying, with a gorgeous concept, and clever devising and portrayal of the story.

Frustration Factors:    Each new scene takes a long time to load which is a bit tiring.  Also there is an really annoying noise made every time you click in the wrong place – obviously meant as an over-clicking deterrent, but it doesn’t work.  It just increases the blood pressure and decreases the enjoyment of the game.

Bonus Game:   You have to save Northpearl from a deadly new threat in a game, with similar Game-play as the Main Story.  It is of a good length, with scenes to explore.

I highly recommend this game, and bought it as soon as there was a sale.

Jud House 3/12/2014

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LEAGUE OF LIGHT: WICKED HARVEST


by MARIA GLORUM GAMES; BIGFISH GAMES

INTRIGUING, MACABRE!

Story:    The League of Light needs your help solving another exciting case! Children have been going missing in the town of Blake’s Mountain in the days leading up to the fabled Red Moon. No one really knows what will happen on that night, but everyone agrees it can’t be good… Strange creatures creep through the shadows, and the citizens fear for their safety. Can you uncover the secrets of Blake’s Mountain and rescue the missing children in this spooky Hidden Objects Puzzle Adventure game? We believe in you, detective!  (Big Fish Sales Blurb) 

An engaging narrative, compelling, well devised, which flows well and keeps you emotionally hooked – you want to see the quest through to a satisfactory conclusion.

Desktop:     Crystal Ball, Journal (Left); Inventory/Clues/Lists (Centre); Map, Hint, Helper/Scarecrow (Right).

Options:    Good; includes Gamma setting to adjust Light/Brightness.

Tutorial:    Good; informative, brief, efficient.

Play Modes:     Casual; Experienced; Masterful; Custom.  I always choose Custom given the chance.

Map:     Interactive; good Graphics, easy to use and to see; helpful.  If no ‘active’ symbol shows you know there must be an Item in your Inventory that needs repairing, assembling, or extra components.  The Map evolves as the game progresses, and though you sometimes need to go back to collect the odd Item, you are mostly concerned with the few sites around each new area.

Graphics:   Gorgeous colours; imaginative; detailed; atmospheric and dark where necessary but not overall.  There is a fair variation in the sites so you don’t get bored as you move to a new area – there are some elements of surprise, while still following the game’s pattern and story logically.

HOPs:   Interactive – so diverse, so many varieties it’s hard to list them all.  They are clever, unusual, and some are complex, some simple.  They include story Mini-HOPs where you find and replace Items within the pages of the story.  This keeps you totally involved in the story of the game as you learn about its back-story. Below is one example of a HOP – the Graphics are clear despite the gloom, so Game-play is more enjoyable.

Puzzles:   Also really diverse, mostly fun to play, a few that had to be Skipped due to lack of logic, randomness, or time constraints – you reach a point where you don’t want to be overly delayed from resolving the dramas of the game.

Game-play:   This was really good – you are engaged in the play from the start.  The use of the Map speeds up Play considerably, though you don’t feel compelled to use it all the time as the action focusses on the immediate sites.  The Controls and Navigation function well which leaves you free to enjoy the game.  You are assisted by a small Scarecrow friend, to collect some things beyond your reach, and to scare birds and creatures if he can.

Player Participation:   This is good – there is the usual Back & Forth, Point & Click activity, as well as the extra activity within the HOPs and Puzzles.

Satisfaction Factor:     Once again this was an immensely satisfying game, with a well-resolved outcome, that left me wishing that the Producers and Publishers didn’t have this system of splitting games into Standard and Collector’s Editions.  How nice to just have all this Collector’s Edition material in every game!

Frustration Factors:     The is a slight delay between scenes – especially new scenes.  You just want to get on, but need to take a breath and allow the scene to appear.

Extras:    As I didn’t trial or purchase the Collector’s Edition, I missed out on these – no doubt Bonus Game, Strategy Guide, Play HOPs, Wallpapers, Music, ScreenSavers, and possibly Play Puzzles, and more.

I really liked this game and bought it using a Discount Coupon as soon as I could.  So naturally I recommend it.

Jud House 17/11/2014

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HOP & PUZZLE VARIATIONS


HOP EXPLOSION!

Though I’m stating the obvious here, it seems to me that competition between the Major Producers of Hidden Object and Adventure games has increased the Player Participation and therefore the enjoyment levels considerably.  This also has rolled over into the external search areas for those Items scattered about at random, many of which now appear as Mini-HOPs or Mini-Puzzles. Even the term HOPs (Hidden Object Puzzles) has been created to supersede the term HOGs, (Hidden Object Games) as that is what they are now, incorporating Puzzles within the Item search.

Initially there were LISTS of random Items – in some cases these were relevant to the game genre, and/or setting, and/or era, and/or story (if there were one), but usually they were a whole jumble of miscellaneous objects.  Quite a few of the games focussed on how quickly you could find all of them, and generously allowed the Player to have Unlimited play to clear ALL HOs from each scene after the game was completed.  This of course was pre-Collector’s Edition times, when you didn’t have to pay extra for the privilege.

PUZZLES were mainly MATCH 3, JIGSAWS, SPOT THE DIFFERENCE, and FIND THE DIFFERENCE (CONCENTRATION) games.

Players began to feel that LISTS were getting a bit too random, and rather humdrum, same-ol’ same-ol’, dare I say boring. They wanted some variety in their PUZZLES as well. So the Game Designers began to make them INTERACTIVE LISTS where you needed to move something to reveal the hidden Item.  And SHAPES, OUTLINES, SILHOUETTES, FRAGMENTS to ASSEMBLE, and RIDDLES followed gradually.  PUZZLES  began to increase in style and number – STACKING, SLIDE to MATCH, FLIPPING, BUTTON PRESSING in ORDER, BUTTON SLIDING, SHOOTING, ARCHERY, LOGIC, RANDOM HITS, and more – so that there were as many of them as there were HOs per game.  This of course was rather irritating if you really wanted to play HO and not PUZZLE games – there were plenty of them that catered for those Players.

Then came the BUBBLES – they were great!  You hovered over or clicked on an Item that you needed, causing a BUBBLE to open, with little MINI-BUBBLES around it – some empty, and others with SHAPES of Items inside, that had to be found to release the original Item to you.  These were really fun as you could end up with four or five of these in one scene – you could choose to have them all, or some, or only one of them open at a time.

The MINI-GAMES were next to arrive – these were a blend of HOs and PUZZLES, which you would think was a bit over the top but which is actually really stimulating and fun.  It is important that there are clear instructions from the INFO button, and that the HOs are fairly done – not transparent, or blurry, or mostly hidden with only a tiny bit sticking out – but that is a whole other issue which I have covered many times.  At first these MINI-GAMES were within the HOs as ZOOM sites – rather fun, and different.

Now, there are these HOPs – HIDDEN OBJECT PUZZLES to solve, where each Item found is used within the site to find the next Item and so on until you are left with a final Item. There is the STORY HOP where as the tale is told you have find shapes within the story page/s to continue to the next page/s; or you find and replace Items scattered throughout the Story page/s before continuing to the next one.  This actually involves you in the STORY, you are part of the Narrative – the STORY drives the game.  There are glorious FRAGMENTS of jewelled items to gather up and assemble, or FRAGMENTS of mundane Items that become tools to use.  These are all so cleverly hidden yet in most cases totally visible and accessable.  Now, in most cases the irrelevance of the Items in the HOPs has gone – the Items may be random but they almost always now fit their setting, story, era, and genre (SciFi, Fantasy. Crime etc).

All these intertwined HOs and PUZZLES – these HOPs – are fantastic, innovative, fun, entertaining, tricky, frustrating, hair-pulling, surprising, unusual, and in some cases you can barely believe they can devise such cool MINI-GAMES – such HOPs!

I am so happy that the competition is great between these Game Producers and the Publishers.  It is to our benefit.  Sometimes I Skip their offerings – sometimes the Puzzle element won’t work, or hinders the progress of the Game, but on the whole I like the new HOPs.  As they strive to go one better than each other, the end result is Happy Player, Happy Buyer!

Jud House  16/11/2014

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