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

This gallery contains 19 photos.


New work added. JUD’S ARTWORK Galaxies Galore Nebulae Bungle Bungles Sunset Cloud Continents Over The Bight            Across the Plain                                 … Continue reading

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STRANDED IN TIME


by HIDDEN HALLOW STUDIO; BIGFISH GAMES

CLASSIC SCI-FI ADVENTURE!

Story:  Stranded In Time takes you on a fun and exciting adventure to explore a mystery out of this world! What seems to be a little weekend get-together with an old eccentric uncle turns into a fantastic journey through time and space.

Play as Olivia – a young sceptic woman from a big city. Join her Uncle Peter and writer Nick on an exploration of an abandoned church that hides a secret that is beyond any wild dream! Meet fun characters and solve tricky puzzles. Only you can find the key to an enigma that is older than history itself! (Big Fish Sales Blurb)

Options & Main Menu:   Very Basic.  The game is not Wide-screen.  MM is clear graphically and easy to use as a result.

Music:  Can only Mute Sounds and Music, not turn them down, which is a shame – the music is fine but too loud.

Voice-Overs:  None – just lots of Dialogue windows.  Make sure you read all of them, though it can be a little tedious, as you need the info they give you.

Desktop:   Inventory Satchel, Journal (L); Hint, Menu (R)

Tutorial:  Gives windowed full Tute showing different Cursor formats at the Start – then you’re on your own.

Graphics:   Love these – like an early Sci-Fi animation.  Clear, colourful, uncluttered, imaginative, visually stimulating, without interfering atmospherics.  The clarity is crucial as some of the items, especially pieces of shattered crystals, are TINY, but you can still see them.  So for once I’m not complaining about HOs being  too small (even though they really are).

Map:   NONE – real handicap – I suggest you make notes as you go – not the kind that are in the Journal, but pics of the ‘Door Runes’ and what’s behind them for example.  It will just help keep you from wasting time going round and round, getting frustrated.

HOPs:   None.  This is a Classic Adventure game, where you search your environment looking for ways in and then ways out, picking up odd Items and solving Puzzles.

Puzzles:   Some of these were cool – but some of them were time-wasters.  If they were random, or didn’t resolve logically first try, I Skipped them.  You may be a Puzzle buff and have good wrists that can take lots of mindless clicking actions – you’ll like them then.

Game-play:   All of the above actions, plus you may need to resort to the Hint as you go, in lieu of a Map.  The Hint shows you a bubble window with the next place you need to be. That’s it – that’s all you get.  Also this game needs you to do things in a certain order – though of course you have no idea about this until you click on an Item and try to place it only to have it rejected.  Don’t fret, or think you’ve suddenly become a Dummy – you haven’t.  You have the right place for it – it’s just not needed there yet.  Relax into the rhythm of the game – it’s an earlier format, like the MYST Series, where you need to explore with very little guidance.

Player Participation:   Obviously high.

Frustration Factors:   The real bug-bear is the lack of a Map.  This causes quite a bit of B&F (back & forth) that usually tires me out.  Plus till you settle to the style of the game-play, a lot of clicking.  The continually having to open and close the Inventory Satchel, to access the Items for use, is quite annoying, and creates extra clicking, and frustration.  You also need to do this in order to Back out of a location, because the Cursor only activates at the very bottom of the screen, behind the opened Inventory bar.

Satisfaction Factor:   This is surprisingly good when you consider how on your own you are.  Graphically it’s an enjoyable environment, though you don’t realise at first that it’s going to be Sci-Fi.  In fact you pop back and forth between Reality and the Surreal.  The story is of medium length – certainly not a long game.  It also ends with the sense that there may be another game to come.

I really liked this game, and highly recommend it to those who don’t mind a Classic now and then.

Jud House 19/04/2016

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SHIVER: POLTERGEIST


by ARTOGON; BIGFISH GAMES

INTRIGUING, SPOOKY CRIME!

Story:  After inheriting a manor in England, you begin to explore the Kangale Estate and discover its history in Shiver: Poltergeist! Ricardo Chellini’s life is incredibly dull and full of repetitive tasks that leave him unfulfilled. One day, however, he receives a letter informing him that he’s the sole heir to an incredible manor in England. Travel with Ricardo to his new estate and discover its terrifying history in Shiver: Poltergeist, an incredible Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure game! (Big Fish Sales Blurb)

Options & Main Menu:   Both were okay – clear and user friendly, but minimal.

Music & Voice-Overs:   Both were very suitable, though I turned the Music down to quite low.

Desktop:   Hint, Journal, Menu (L); Inventory, Lists (C); Torch, Camera (R)  NO MAP!

Tutorial:   Quick, Efficient, and makes you take actions before it proceeds, but you can opt out at any time.  I would do so, except I need to make sure that there isn’t game-specific information that I will need.

Graphics:   These were disappointing due to their extremely drab, gloomy, atmospheric, colourless lack of visibility.  Such a shame as they were really well-devised and detailed for the setting of the narrative.  Even with my super new curved screen I couldn’t improve them much.

This is as colourful as it got.

Play Modes:   Casual; Advanced; Expert.

Map:  None.  This was a real handicap, as you were forced to remember which path led where and what was at the end of them that needed doing.  This is turn meant continually Pointing & Clicking and going Back & Forth – always a pain in the wrist.  It also caused continual use of the Hint to save making mistakes that in turn caused more P & C and B & F.  You could always make your own Map as you proceed, but unless you not the Items at each site on it, you will still have to remember what is where.

HOPs:   Interactive Lists, with atmospherically blurred Graphics, though some were improved by the use of the Torch.  It seemed that this could be used in any dark or gloomy sites, and of course were necessary in others which remained unusable until the shone the Torch.

Puzzles:   Most were simple, logical, and enjoyable.  Although information for them goes into the Journal which can be easily accessed, I recommend you make notes as you proceed.

Game-play:   Apart from those mentioned above, this game required the Player to go into ‘exploring mode’, searching every inch of each site, collecting Items, using Items, and playing HOPs for more Items.  Items weren’t assembled on the Inventory by the Player – rather they were automatically assembled once each were clicked.

Player Participation:   As you may have gathered, this is continual.

Satisfaction Factor:   By this stage you may be wondering why I bothered to buy this game, let alone finish playing it.  It’s because the story was intriguing – it held my interest, and made me want to see where it went and what happened.  Fortunately for me, this game actually finishes with a proper ending, followed by the lead-off into the Sequel or Collector’s Edition Bonus Game story.

Frustration Factors:   Mainly the gloom.  I hate peering at a screen, leaning in when I know that won’t help.  And the lack of colour was so depressing – colourless graphics don’t add anything to the story, as the world isn’t colourless.  The story drives the game – in this case really well – and the colour would have added even more.

I do recommend this game, but would suggest you trial it first.

Jud House 10/12/2014

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REDRUM: TIME LIES


by ANARCHY ENTERPRISES; BIGFISH GAMES

INTRIGUING, MACABRE CRIME!

Story:  The twisted and evil Dr. Sigmund Fraud has been released from the asylum, and is up to his old tricks. Help Detective Ravenwood track him down and end his terrible crimes in Redrum – Time Lies. Dive into this Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure game and free the souls of Dr. Fraud’s victims from their nightmares. Explore eerie nightmares and put an end to Dr. Fraud’s cruel experiments once and for all. Warning: Redrum – Time Lies is an intense psychological murder mystery intended for mature audiences. (Big Fish Sales Blurb)

Options & Main Menu: Both are good, clear and user-friendly.

Music & Voice-Overs:   The music is well suited to the setting, but becomes irritating towards the end due to its repetitive nature – made me feel quite ill, and anxious, which of course is its purpose.  I wish I could have turned it right down easily, but to do so I would have had to return to the Menu losing the HOP I was currently working on.

Desktop:   Magnifying Glass (Hint), Menu (L); Lists for HOPS (C);Map, Inventory arrowed and numbered window holding one visible item stacked upon any others (R).  this means that there is more clear space in the main screen.

Tutorial:  Quick and efficient, though it makes you use Hint unless you decide to Skip Tutorial during the process.  Any experienced Player can do so easily as there are no real surprises.

Graphics:   Colourful, imaginative, and clear – a joy to play amongst despite the gruesome nature of some of the images.  Take the warning about Adult rating seriously – the images will give children nightmares.  Some of them are truly gruesome, not to mention gross and yujjo aka yukko aka yukky!  But they are so good, and even I was able to look at them in context and not shy away. I haven’t posted the worst images.

Play Modes:   Relaxed; Paranoid.

Map:   Once you have gained it this is interactive.  It shows your position, and rooms of victims, and those saved, but that is all.  The jumping facility saves a lot of travelling back & forth, though by doing so you sometimes find surprises that help your next move.

HOPs:   This is a HOP laden game which is very satisfying, especially with the clear Graphics, but they are not plain standard lists.  Those are interactive, some to the extreme – in other words each Item is used on the next and so on till the final one.  You need to match images from the bar to the site’s image, play mini-games, find multiples of an item, and more.  They begin simply at first but as the game progresses become more difficult which is challenging.

Puzzles:   These are quite unusual.  There are sliding, swapping, and normal jigsaws to complete to open the nightmares within each victim’s mind.  And as the game progresses they also change from very simple to very complex, requiring the same approach but far more time-consuming.

Collections:   Although there aren’t the usual kind of collections, you need to find a Magnifying Glass in each scene to add to the Hints available for your use.  If you have missed one, the ‘card’ will have a different sparkle to that of one not yet played – this lets you know to check it for a magnifier.

Game-play:   This game has a really unusual format which I found intriguing – it made me want to keep playing, and, in order to do that, buy the game.  As mentioned, it involves a lot of going back and forth, opening then entering mind-rooms, freeing ‘butterfly’ souls, gaining roses to trade for clock-dials to open more mind-doors.  The Hint will give a specific clue for each ‘room’ telling in which ‘room’ an item can be found, but not actually showing you what you must find in the ‘room’ you are in.  this is a little frustrating.  I came to a stand-still a couple of times and had to Exit the game and check the Game Walk-through in the Big Fish Sales page.

Tip:   Use the BRICK on the CRYSTAL to get the ROSE – the only item I didn’t hit the CRYSTAL with!  This game requires patience – you will find yourself trying to topple the bird-cage throughout the whole game, only to find that it’s only achieved prior to opening the last ‘room’ of the game.

Player Participation:   This is immersive, addictive, and continual.  Much pointing & clicking, back & forth game-play.  Rather tiring, but very hard to leave till the end.

Satisfaction Factor:   This is ambiguous.  It’s a great game, with cool if macabre story, clear colourful though hideously extreme at times Graphics, and an unusual, fun format.  However the ending is really annoying!  I don’t want to give it all away, but as usual it sets up for the next Sequel (it’s a Sequel itself).  And as you’re playing the last part you become aware that “Hey it can’t end yet!”  A little outrageous!

Frustration Factors:   Only the lack of more comprehensive Help from the Hint.  I suggest you open the Game Walk-through on your Desktop prior to starting play.  That way if you do have to come out to find the next step, you can do so quickly, then reopen the game and carry on.  It’s free to access on the Big Fish game-specific sales page.

I highly recommend this game despite the few negatives.  So good I didn’t put it on my Pile of Shame to wait its turn – I bought it and played it and blogged it immediately.

Jud House 5/04/2016

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MOTOR TOWN: SOUL OF THE MACHINE


by ALAWAR; WELLORE; BIGFISH GAMES

INTRIGUING TIMEWARP!

Story:  A young journalist, desperate for a big story, accepts an intriguing assignment: Hunt down an eccentric inventor who hasn’t spoken to anyone in years and interview him about his latest gadget. The writer gets more than she bargained for when she arrives at her destination and finds the living have abandoned the town and she learns of the inventor’s plans to create cars with souls! As her guide, you’ll search vintage cars and rundown factories for clues, perform tasks for ghosts, and solve an array of ingenious puzzles. With the fate of many souls and the life of the inventor on the line, you must not delay! (Big Fish Blurb)

Options & Main Menu:  Both are good – MM is clear and easy to use.

Music & Voice-Overs:   These are also good – the music suits the setting, and the dialogues give adequate information and set tasks.

Desktop:   Journal, Menu (L); Inventory, Lists (C); Hint, Amulet (R).

Tutorial:   Done with the usual Alawar efficiency.

Graphics:   These were predominantly clear and colourful, but not the glorious brilliance of the Fantasy games colour.  Rather it is ‘plain’ tones and industrial hues, to suit the delapidation of the rundown city full of derelict vehicles.  This is done really well, without resorting to gloom or over-use of darkness.

Play Modes:   Casual; Expert.  The game offers unlimited Hints and Tips – at least in the Casual Mode – and you need to resort to these frequently, unless you are skilled enough to draw a Map as you go.  This of course only helps if you can remember which Sites need of which Items.

Map:  None!  I looked for one in the Journal but could find no tabs.  This makes this cool game tedious.  You are forced to go back and forth continually, increasing the player fatigue and making the wrist ache.

HOPs:   These  are standard Interactive Lists, most with clear Graphics.  There are plenty of them and you play 2 HOPS per Site.

Puzzles:   The  logical, quick Puzzles were fine, but the random and sliding Puzzles were annoying and often unworkable.  Of course if I wanted to sit there, growing older with aching shoulders for half an hour just to try to get one Puzzle out, I could have, but as usual I just hit SKIP.

Collections:   10 Slides for use in the Projector.

Game-play:   This follows the usual seek and find format, collecting Items and using them elsewhere.  The inevitability that tools you find and use will immediately be mysteriously lost from your Inventory so that you have to find another one to use on the next screw, bolt, lock etc becomes an ongoing joke.  Ditto that everything place you look is secured by locks that are missing symbols, plaques, coins, etc!  And they are rarely to be found in the same location as they are needed.  But the game flows well, driven on by the tasks of its story

Player Participation:   Full on!  And tiring.

Satisfaction Factor:   It’s an enjoyable game, as the premise is different.  Of course there is an eerie element to it, an unreal twist within the storyline, but it ends satisfactorily.

Frustration Factors:   Mostly the lack of Map and the resulting tedium and fatigue; and the annoying Puzzles.

As it is interesting, I do recommend this game, despite the lack of Map.

Jud House 21/03/2016

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Pile of Shame – Jekyll & Hyde Affect


I’m still ploughing through the Pile of Shame games – almost there on my Toshiba laptop (except for the Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew games), but still have to do the Mac lot and the Asus lot! And I’ve been thinking about how the hell I’m going to write reviews for all of the games played during this marathon.

My conclusion to this problem?  Blog a general overview of groups of them, and the direction that some (via their developers) are taking. The older games also need to be grouped as, although they are still entertaining, their lack of facilities, such as interactive maps, create frustration for current impatient players (such as myself) who just want to breeze through the games at high velocity, and get annoyed when they find themselves floundering around due to the outmoded ‘order of play’ preventing obvious steps from being taken.

As you can see, this highlights a side to our personalities which is less than admirable.  The rise of this impatience over petty issues, and the varying degrees of frustration, annoyance, stress, anger and in some rage, is less than flattering, and can be quite harmful physiologically.  Most of us are charming, good, kind, friendly, clever, curious, knowledgeable, socially informed, humorous, witty, and downright fun.  But put us in front of a game, and by the time the damn thing has loaded – often slowly (which when it came out was considered fast) – the stress-levels have begun to rise.  I mean we just want to get on with it!  We want to enjoy ourselves!!!

Of course, if I’d played all of these games as I bought them, this problem wouldn’t have arisen.  I bought them because they trialed as great or at least good fun.  The graphics were cool and/or colourful, and the blurriness which was used in the HOPs back then was a pain but the norm.  If you’ve read others of my blogs – especially earlier ones you will see that I mentioned this annoying aspect frequently – mainly due to the eye-strain factor it caused.  Even then we were unsatisfied with the amazing work done by the game producers.

I believe as the technological advances occurred, producing HOP games that weren’t just locations full of unrelated items to find from Lists, our expectations for the game-play also rose.  We were given Interactive HOPs – where you could use and found item on another to collect it – then items that hid other fragments that resulted in the Key Object – then silhouettes, shapes, and pictures in the List bar – then bejewelled or plain fragments of several items to assemble – then the cursed Morphing items which try the patience of a saint let alone a frustrated human!  And within the main game-play the challenges rose also.

Then there’s the problem of Puzzles!  Some games are overburdened with Puzzles.  There needs to be, in Hidden Object Games, a balance between HOPs and Puzzles at the very least, with a leaning towards HOPs if possible.  The Mini-Games are also a recent phenomenum – combining Puzzle actions with HO searches, usually including Interactive problem solving.  That’s fine, but the Puzzles need to be solvable – relatively quickly, logically, readily.  The Puzzles that require random clicking or sliding to solve them cause stress, frustration, annoyance with the producers, and time-wasting in both the real and game worlds.

Now I know that in an ‘urgent’ storyline situation, that urgency will actually wait for you to reach it before it activates – the villain or victim can wait for you to play your way there no matter how many toilet or coffee breaks you take.  However, the whole point of a game is for you to progress through the story until it concludes, otherwise there’s no point in having a story at all.  The tension, created by the emergencies in the story, drives the game-play forward.  Puzzles stop this game-play flow dead in its tracks.  Having said all that – some puzzles are innovative, clever, delightfully different yet simple.  The simplicity is the key – the ingenuity is the delight.  That’s the kind of Puzzle that makes players smile in acknowledgement as they see the trick of it, deal with it, and move swiftly on.

Then there’s the problem of the NANCY DREW and SHERLOCK HOLMES games. The NANCY DREW games are heavily loaded with Puzzles, with no Skip button, which means that if you can’t solve it, you’re stuck.  Completely.  And the SHERLOCK Adventure games have problematical navigation issues.  Great stories, but extremely difficult mouse controls causing motion sickness side effects.  No wonder I keep putting them off, despite the fact that I love anything Sherlock!  The SHERLOCK HOP games are much better re control, though the very earliest have blurry graphics and tiny HOs.  The exception is SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES game, which plays really well, while allowing you to get involved in the story and the evidence searches.

So returning to an older game is doomed from the outset.  It’s accompanied by escalating stress levels, vocalisation at the incompetence of the character who is unable to perform the most obvious tasks you require – usually because it’s not the right time in the game to do so, though of course you know where things have to go and what to do way ahead of time.  Instead of an enjoyable time spent playing a game, you discover that you’ve turned into a snarling monster, loudly telling your character to ‘bloody open the stupid thing – I gave you the key’; or denouncing the artwork department for hiding objects behind rays of light, clouds of fog, or as opaque or miniscule items against the same colour background, or so obscured by another object that the fragment shown is not recognisable.

Another already noted frustration is the lack of Maps (Interactive or otherwise) in the older games.  We are so used to saving valuable time, and the onset of RSI in the mouse-hand/wrist, by continually using the Map to jump from inactive to active site – that having to continually traipse back and forth, often through multiple sites, to reach the next point of action, is tedious beyond extreme.  (My over-the-top vocab use evokes the stress-levels this b & f causes.)  Also, of course, we now expect there to be info indicators on these Maps, so we can stay focussed on the forward movement of the game and thus the story.

We’re busy people!  We don’t have time to waste going back and forth!  Besides, how are we supposed to remember which direction we went in, or where the damn item we just found needed to be used, without a Maze-guide – a Map.  It’s our Sat-Nav!  As for making our own Map as we go along – for Pete’s sake – it’s ridiculous.  This is not MYST or FREDDI FISH.  Why didn’t the game producers think of that?  Oh yeah – I forgot – it’s an old game – they didn’t have the technology.   S i g h . . . . .

Tip:  Try not to gain a Pile of Shame.  Try to play the games as you buy them, and not buy the next one – regardless of the great Sales on your favourite Game-site – until you have completed the last one.  And pigs will fly, and pink elephants will become commonplace!

Tip:  Take note of your personality changes as you play, and try to modify them, or have a drink or munchies break till you calm down.

Having passed on my helpful Tips, it goes without saying that I will no doubt fail to take employ them myself.  But you get that!

Games.  Such fun!  So enjoyable!  So addictive!

Jud House  15/03/2016

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