CHRISTMAS STORIES: PUSS IN BOOTS – Collector’s Edition


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by ELEPHANT GAMES; BIG FISH GAMES

FELINE XMAS FUN!

Story:  The Christmas magic continues… with the next in the blockbuster series from Elephant Games! You adopt a forlorn kitten on Christmas Eve, but little did you know what that innocent cat would get you into. It seems a thief has ransacked Santa’s purrrfect little toy town, stealing the Christmas star! Why would anyone want to stop Christmas from coming? (Big Fish Sales Blurb)

This story is fun and flows well, with plenty of twists.  I really liked the way it brought it showed the Russian Folk-lore that’s linked to Father Christmas.

Options:  This is good and has Gamma setting.

Main Menu:  Well set out, clear and usable.

Music:  This is really good, enjoyable, not overpowering, though as usual I turned it down so it became background and allowed the Sound Effects to be heard.

Voice-Overs:  These were really good too – suited their characters perfectly.

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Extras:   Concept Art; Music; Achievements; Collectibles; Screensaver; Bonus Game; Wallpapers;Secret Room.
You have to mouse-over the scene to locate them.  The Secret Room has 3 Cats in it, each with 3 HOPs for you to replay.   I felt ripped off – usually you get all the HOPs in their own section, plus Mini-Games and Puzzles in theirs, plus a Secret Room where you get to find something from each game scene.

Desktop:   (Left) Simon {cat}, Menu, Map; (Centre) Inventory, Lists;  (Right)Hint, Strategy Guide.

Tutorial:  This is helpful and you can choose just to have the Special Features tutorial or all or none.

Graphics:   Colourful, clear, fun, very detailed, and totally Christmassy!

Play Modes:  Kitten; Santa; Puss in Boots; Custom Cat.  I chose the last one which had plenty of choices for me to set.

Map:   This was also colourful and Christmassy, and had a snowflake on the Hotspot sites so you could save time and jump to them.

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HOPs:   
There could have been more of these and less Puzzles.  Lists; Story HOPs; Search; Place items from inventory;

Puzzles:   Quite good overall.  The Tool Search with the Lens was interesting, and there were lots of little things like that.  In the Bonus Game the Cat Face Rotation Puzzle was really clever.  There are a couple that required dexterity, but I managed those though they annoyed me.

Collections:   Morphing Xmas Characters (12); Jigsaw Puzzle pieces (36).

Game-play:   Using Cats as the Characters puts this into the Kids Game Category.  However you easily shrug this off and slip into the story.  There’s the expected seek and find of missing items, unlocking various equipment in order to move forward physically through the terrain.  Lots of going back and forth – made easier by the interactive nature of the map.  And it is a fairly long game – which is always good.

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Bonus Game:  This is also long, which is great – and it made up for the lack of other Game-Playing Extras in the Bonus Content.  More of the same activities, with another twist to the story.  And it resolved neatly, as had the Main Story.

Player Participation:   Total.  You don’t stop, pausing only to interact with the characters as they gave you the next Task.

Frustration Factors:  This was minor, and mostly involved  the occasional lack of direction – but usually a glance at the Map fixed that.  There were odd things – like realising who you had to give something to when it seemed a little ‘left field’ and not quite logical.

Satisfaction Factor:  Overall this game  was quite satisfying.  The Stories – both Main and Bonus – drove the Game-play, and were fun even though they were Cats!  Luckily I love cats.  It might be a bit annoying for someone who doesn’t.  But their characters were cool, as were their snowy settings.

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I highly recommend this game to all Christmas Story lovers.

Jud House 13/12/2017

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OMINOUS OBJECTS: PHANTOM REFLECTION – Collector’s Edition


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by DAILY MAGIC PRODUCTIONS; BIGFISH GAMES

SUPERNATURAL MIRROR FANTASY!

Story: After surviving a supernatural experience as a child, you have dedicated your life to solving similar cases and tracking down ominous objects all over the world. This time, you and your trusty sidekick, Mr. Jenkins, have been called to the house of Lilith Armstrong to investigate strange activity. But when you arrive, Lilith is nowhere to be found, and the entire house seems to have come alive! The events all seem to be tied to a rare mirror Lilith recently purchased at an auction… Can you find out what happened to your client and uncover the secrets of this latest ominous object before it’s too late? (Big Fish Sales Blurb)

Options:  These seem to Basic, but the Custom Play Mode gives flexibility that’s needed.

Main Menu:  Clear, user-friendly, with cut-scenes playing in mirror shards in the background.

Music & Voice-Overs:  Both suit the game really well.  The Voice-Overs match their characters, though the Dialogues take a little while to go through – you need to click to move to the next voice.

Extras:   Bonus Game; Game Dots; Developer Diary; Concept Art; Wallpapers; Cat Room; Music.  Game Dots is trap the cat game.  In the Cat Room you buy furnishings and toys for Mr Jenkins. No real choices – just buy or don’t buy.  A bit pointless – be different if you could choose between things so each time you replayed the game the room could look different.

Desktop:   (Left) Pop-Up Diary, Spectacles, Kitty Playroom, Map; (Centre) Inventory, Lists; (Right) Lilith, Hint.  Guide pops down from the Top Left when needed.  But it isn’t very helpful – just basically so.  Absolutely no help with their odd HOPs.

Tutorial: This is helpful, quick, and you can opt out at any time.

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Graphics:  As with all Daily Magic productions games these are gorgeous, colourful, clear, and enjoyable.  You immerse yourself into the locations via these Graphics, and their clarity also helps with this.  They are beautifully detailed, and delightful.

Play Modes:   Casual; Advanced; Hard; Custom.  Custom allows you to modify it to suit yourself – much better.  You can turn off the unnecessary Over-clicking Penalties!

Map:  Interactive, once you have found it.  It shows info, unlocking sites as you progress.  It also contains the Notebook and Tasks, which are useful to check occasionally.  You may need to resort to this a lot when you reach the Bonus Game.

HOPs:   (Match-3 Alternative) Lists; Interactive HOPs that reveal fragments of the final Item; confusing Continual Chain of progressive actions leading to a Mini-Game that leads to a final Item; Pairs of Items;  Story HOPs and Silhouettes.  Each HOP site has these in sequence so you revisit each site several times.  If these become a little to tedious or tricky for you, you can always hit the MATCH-3 button and play that instead of the HOPs to gain the final Item.

Puzzles:   Rotating pics of the Goggles are tricky.  You use these to restore distortions, using the same colour lenses as the colour of the distortion.  You line up the image inside them – quite cool.  The Key to the Secret Room puzzle won’t work properly – it was a poorly thought out idea – just Skip it.  There are others that are too annoying as well – just Skip them as they slow down your game and distract you from the story flow.  But there are also some really neat Puzzles that surprise.  Too many Puzzles – especially in the Bonus Game.

Collections:   Cat Coins – to be spent in the Cat Room buying gifts for Mr Jenkins.

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Game-play:   This is complex.  Initially feel around for the right way to play the game.  The Story is really strong and keeps you playing despite odd difficult moments.  You have to help Mr Jenkins to assist you by clicking on his paw as he touches an Item.  There are layers of storyline, providing layers of game-play – overlapping, twisting complexitites.  There are lots of doors and boxes and drawers and glass cabinets and so on to unlock with various parts to find before you can do so.  The mechanics of the game-play are basically WOW!  It’s hard to put my finger on it, but I just find myself saying ‘Wow’ every now and then.

Player Participation:   Mentally and physically full-on!  It really has you pointing and clicking from the minute you start.  there are a few breathers while you check the dialogue, but on the whole you are totally involved with the game.

Frustration Factors:  A few with a few Puzzles. And with the occasional getting stuck, only to find I wasn’t really stuck at all.  I resorted to Hint a few times, but mainly when I was tired and couldn’t see for looking – which I found when the Item or next move was revealed to me.  I sometimes think I should add a Fatigue Factor, but then that is such a relative thing.

Bonus Game:   This is long which is great.  But it is less helpful – the Contextual Pointers disappear leaving you to resort to Hint or Guide both of which are not very helpful in this game.  There are less HOPs and more Puzzles which created an imbalance within the game-play and is irritating to those of us who tolerate a certain amount of Puzzles.  If we wanted to play Puzzle games then that’s what we would do.  These are supposed to be about Adventure, Quests, Search & Find, Problem solving.  Unlocking doors and boxes etc is par for the course, but all the extra unnecessary Puzzles just impede the game flow and mar the overall experience.

Satisfaction Factor:  Obviously not hugely satisfying.   This is quite a long game with several parts to it.  It seems to be concluding but then you go on into another section that is equally as long.  That is always satisfying too.  Though you need to take a break which is hard to do when a game is so compulsive.
I have major frustrations with the way these stories ended.  The Standard game closes leaving you feeling really hanging – there is no real closure, you know why it ended but that’s it.  There is no resolution.  So of course that had to follow with the Bonus Game which continues the story.  And when that concludes it doesn’t really.  You still don’t know what the outcome would be.  I don’t know if this is due to the story writers, or the developers notion of what is the barest minimum they can get away with to save some creator wages.  But twice in one game is the pits!

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While I recommend this game  – it’s so good in many ways – I warn you that the inconclusive conclusions, the unresolved resolutions, may really annoy you too.

Jud House 10/12/2017

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OMINOUS OBJECTS: FAMILY PORTRAIT – Collector’s Edition


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by DAILY MAGIC PRODUCTIONS; BIGFISH GAMES

SUPERNATURAL, CHILLING FANTASY!

Story:  You arrive home from a long business trip to discover your new home in disarray! Your wife tells you paintings throughout the house have been coming to life, and now your children are missing. Only little Leia remains, but she refuses to unlock her door. Who or what frightened her so badly… and where are your other children? As you seek them out, you realize your new home hides many dark secrets. You must uncover them before your family is cursed to remain there forever….. (Big Fish Sales Blurb)

The Story is excellent, well connected, well-devised, with linear plot-line, and engaging characters.

Options:  Basic but okay.

Main Menu:  Clear and User friendly.

Music & Voice-Overs:  Music is fine and suits the game.  The idea of having the Voice-Over continually paasing on information isn’t really a good one – it gets a little tedious, and becomes quite annoying after a while.

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Extras:  Bonus Game; Bonus Match-3 (Save Kittens); Developer Diary; Concept Art; Kitty Playroom; Achievements; Wallpapers; Music.

Desktop: (Top Left) Guide; (Bottom Left) Mr Jenkins {cat}, Menu, Map, Achievements/Goals/Kitty Playroom; (Centre) Inventory, Lists; (Right) Hint.

Tutorial:  Fairly quick and efficient.  No Mini-Game Instructions.  You can opt out.

Graphics:   Colourful, gorgeous and fairly clear.

Play Modes:  Casual; Advanced; Hard.

Map:  Interactive, and colourful.  Sites locked and will unlock as you access them by solving their door Puzzles.  No Notebook.  Shows where you are and where the next Task is.

HOPs:   Interactive Lists; Return Pic items; Mini-Game inside HOP.  Find Items in Mini-Game sites to reveal pieces of final Item.  Skip and Hint both recharge.

Puzzles:  Good variety, some quite tricky, but persevere.  Use Skip if it becomes tedious.

Collections:  Kitty Coins. 

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Game-play:   The Story drives  this – everything has a purpose.  Well-devised plotline with enough twists to frustrate and thwart you, and make you more determined to get through to the end.  You have to explore all areas of each site, and of course especially the Hot-Spots.  And you don’t always get clues when you want them – you can resort to the Hint button or the Map if you really need to know where to go next.

Player Participation:   Continual, enjoyable.

Satisfaction Factor:  High.  This game is really long which is great!  I have written that it is Excellent!! so it must have been.

Frustration Factors:  Usual minor niggles, and moments of frustration when you get stuck.  Frustration mostly due to the  lack of Notebook and the need for Mini-Game instructions with nearly each Puzzle faced.

Bonus Game:  This is a Sequel in which you rescue the cat, Mr Jenkins, from a Witch.  It is also a good length.

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I highly recommend this game.

Jud House 8/12/2017

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MANOR MEMOIRS – Collector’s Edition


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by PLAYRIX ENTERTAINMENT; BIGFISH GAMES

MANOR HOUSE RENOVATIONS!

Story:   Even though she’s a bestselling author, Scarlett has lost her inspiration. Leaving behind the hustle and bustle of her big city life, she moves into a beautiful 19th century mansion in the countryside. Unfortunately, this place needs some serious work, so Scarlett calls you for help! Search the mansion for treasures and hold garage sales to turn her ramshackle retreat into a comfy palace! But be careful. You never know what dark secrets you’ll uncover, and they could be the key to breaking Scarlett’s writer’s block!  (Big Fish Sales Blurb)

Options & Main Menu:  Both are good.

Music:  It’s different for each room – the Blues Music is good.  But it’s a little annoying generally so I advise you turn the volume down.

Hints: Compass (Arrow points direction of Items); Camera; Thermometer – be careful as you can accidentally click on these.

Extras:  Concept Art; Soundtracks; Strategy Guide; Wallpapers; Bonus Levels to unlock after the main game.

Bonus Levels:  Barbeque; Billiard Run; Hall of Fame; Outdoor Fountain; Bar; Veranda; Old Attic; Living Room.

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Desktop:   (Top Left) Eye (Overview), Coins; (Top Right) Achievements, Help, Menu.  (Bottom Left) Design; ( Left Centre) Design Items; Bottom Right) Play.
HOP SCREEN: (Top Left) Menu; (Left Side) Customer/HOP Item list various forms, Coin Collection; (Right) Hint.

Tutorial:  Automatic but can be turned off.

Graphics:  Colourful and relevant, but I wish they were a little clearer.

Play Modes:   Relaxed; Against the Clock.

Puzzles:   Easy, enjoyable, and all to do with getting Manor in order – like switching on power.

HOPs:   Pictures; Shapes; Lists; Torch-lit; Swap Items.

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Collections:   Coins.

Game-play:   With the Cursor, brush over the coins collecting at the side to bank them on the top bar, and to release the spaces for more Items.  Renovation selections are now 5 choices of decor items to purchase with your collected coins – including Art Deco.

Player Participation:   As with these games that is fairly continual, and enjoyable.

Satisfaction Factor:  Initially good, but once the main game was completed this nose-dived to very poor satisfaction.

Frustration Factors:   The Collector’s Edition is a real let-down.  Game characteristics, that were part of the main game in previous PlayRix Games e.g. MANSION MAKEOVER, are how separated into Standard and Collector’s Edition so you pay more for what should have been one Standard game.  Not only is this unfair, there is actually quite a lot less to play, with no extra Renovations to do on the house or the characters involved.

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I still recommend this game to those who enjoy Renovation Games, but be warned about the so called Extras.  There is a MANOR MEMOIRS Standard version but I don’t know what you get in that, with half the game relegated to the Collector’s Edition..

Jud House 21/11/2017

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STEEL LIFE


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by AxiPLAY GAMES; BIGFISH GAMES

SCI-FI, ROBOT WORLD!

Story: Struggling against a deadly virus, humanity undertakes an insane attempt at rescue. A group of scientists has discovered how to transform humans into mechanical robots, immune to the virus. However, the scientist responsible for the research of reverse transformation went missing under mysterious circumstances, leaving hope of the human race’s rebirth behind.  Dive into a world which survived a terrible calamity.  Can you return mankind to its original state?  Solve the mystery of humanity’s disappearance. (Big Fish Sales Blurb)

 Options:   These are basic but that’s all that is needed.

Main Menu:  This appears simple, but is rather more complex.  All Info is via Icon buttons that may be instantly understood by mobile device users, but are rather baffling for those that technology is leaving behind.  You have to click on them to find out what they are, but you can then click back out of them without closing the game down.

Music:  This is okay but I turned mine down as I always do.  I prefer mine in the background not dominating the Game-play.

Voice-Overs:  None.  There are Dialogue boxes that appear when you click on a character you wish to interview.

Desktop: (Left)  Curved Arrow (Exit/Back), Menu, PDA; (Centre) Inventory; (Right) Compass (Go To Indicator), Hint.

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PDA: File Button (News Entry, Task), Journal Mode (New Life), Compass (Interactive Map).  This PDA is crucial to the whole game.  You need to click and drag from it to various Items to download their info into your Filing system so you can access it.

Tutorial:  This is a bit dominating but is crucial due to the unique play requirements  of this game.  Go right through it till the end.  It will prevent many impasses later.

Graphics:  The weird opening graphics seem to bear no relation to those of the game.  there are intermittent Cut-Scenes of similar footage that gradually begin to make sense as back-story.  The main Graphics are so colourful, fun, quirky, totally Sci-Fi animated visual novel style.  You immediately want to jump into the game!

Play Modes:  Casual; Hard (under the PLAY button).

Map:  As I have said this is interactive.  If clicked on via the PDA, it will show which sites contain Tasks.  You can double click on these to move straight to them.  If you click on the Compass on the Tool Bar, all the open sites will show compasses at their entrances.  These will stay ON until you click the Compass again.

Puzzles:   Most of the Tasks require Puzzles to complete them.  There are far too  many of these.  I understand that this is more an Adventure game than a HOP one – there are no HOPs – but this loading of Puzzles makes the game tedious.  Some are okay, some less so, some really annoying, and some impossible to do.  You can SKIP them and as the game continued I tended to do that.  They interrupt the flow of the game.

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Game-play:   The Cursor shows a Magnifying Glass to open Items, to zoom into them.  They usually have Side Lenses attached to show how you can move Items, or snippets of info you need for a special task (eg a slide control switch, or a specific Code).  You need to remember that you have to move covers by hand, sliding them off by Click & Drag.  Apart from the usual Item Collection and Problem Solving expected in an Adventure game, as you interact with characters, you are also required to examine their clues to decide if they are the TRUTH or LIES.
At first a little baffling, like most of the Game-play, you get the hang of this after a while.  I found that I made some game notes, like Card Codes and so on, until it became obvious that these details would appear beside their specific problem your were solving – but only after you had actually found them (the details).  There is no FX sound to let you know that they have been recorded in your notes, and if you go to the journal, they don’t always appear, but they WILL appear when you need them.

Player Participation:   As you can see this is essential to the game.  All actions are taken by you.  There is no respite, such as clicking something and it automatically happening (the lazy players fave way to play)!  But that’s fine.  But it is a really long game – several times you think you’ve reached the end, but you haven’t!!

Satisfaction Factor:  It is surprisingly satisfying.  Especially as you feel you’ve run a marathon just to reach the end.  But it is intriguing, different, clever, funny, quirky (subtle difference there), visually stimulating, mentally engaging, and worth the effort.  Besides it’s SCI-FI!!!!

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Frustration Factors:   I think you know what they are by now.  The lack of direction contributes to bafflement and frustration.  But you do adjust to the style of game-play after a while, even though you frequently hit a ‘dead end’.

Warning:  Due to my playing the Casino Puzzle in the wrong order – not that this was apparent to help you get it right – it refused to finish the Puzzle, or even to Exit.  I had to use Ctrl/Alt/Del to bring up the Task manager to close the game altogether.  Then, when I reopened it, clicked PLAY, it opened onto the right game part and I was able to complete the Puzzle, and the Game.

For SCI-FI lovers, this is a must.  Many of you will sail through the Game-play wondering what I ‘m on about.  Others will remember:  “when in doubt check your PDA”.  I highly recommend this game.

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Jud House 24/11/2017

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Posted in ADVENTURE, SCI-FI | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments