Wednesday, January 13, 2010

iPhone Game App Review: Pac-Man Championship Edition

Courtesy of

The original Pac-Man was released in 1980. Endless versions and spinoffs have assaulted our senses since that fateful year. Pac-Man Championship Edition first appeared on Xbox Live Arcade as a download in 2007. The original creators, Toru Iwatani and Namco, played a role in this remake and it shows, as the quality is high and gameplay tight.

Atmosphere/Graphics/Sound): A. Typical Pac-Man, but with some pleasant updated retro flashing colors and engaging eighties arcade audio. It's hard to improve on an original but just a few tweaks have made for a great experience.

Replay Value: A. The developers have done Pac-Man justice. This game is essentially a multitude of minigames which, after each victory, unlocks another game. The collection as a whole is amazing, with or without an expansion pack. As you unlock more levels each one becomes more challenging, yet not painfully irritating or repetitive.

Controls: B. Rarely is there a perfect control scheme for the iPod, but with four different control options you should find one that suits you. At times maneuvering tight corners can be frustrating while operating under the time constraints of some levels.

Originality & Intangibles: A. People may scoff at another Pac-Man game but this game is simply amazing fun. The variety of mazes and gameplay is reminiscent of the classic Atari 2600 Maze Craze (in a good way). Addictive is too often used to describe handheld games but this game can truly be habit forming.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ching Chong Beautiful: More Floppy, Painful Fun Than A Night With Charlie Sheen

When I first played Ching Chong Beautiful, I was blown away by the funky Japanese game show music, wack visuals and hilarious voices. I had some trepidation playing it after hearing about the Rosie O'Donnell flap, but this is good clean and frenetic fun.

In this game your brother is being held by organized crime until you can cough up a racing thoroughbred. In a completely unforeseen coincidence, a crazy game show pops up on your TV, inviting would-be contestants to beat show personality Mr. Beautiful's obstacle course. The prize? Why, Mrs. Beautiful. Apparently she's some kind of hot horse.

CCB gives you a platform race with running, jumping and water-shaking abilities entirely consistent with an average 15-year-old. You can run while ducking, jump off walls, and grab ledges. Though the abilities are mundane, you always hear something funny when you pull off anything fancier than running. Each level has you grabbing blue icons of a fish wearing a trucker hat. When you're done, you high-five the construction worker at the end of the level, and you move on.

Backgrounds are very artfully designed and the environments gradually start to spice up. Though the first few levels may insult anyone over 10 years old, a few clever placements of terrain and obstacles engage a Ching Chong Beautiful player's patience and coordination. Somewhat like the Saw video game, more happens when you get owned. In this case, it's not lethal, but it sure is embarrassing.

Sound/Music: A+. One of the best overall Flash Game soundtracks, combined with some riotous adolescent klutz voice effects. Making it to the end of a level makes you feel like a champion with its exaggerated animations and blasting accolades.

Replay Value: B I hear hard mode is absolutely insane. Will have to check it out.

Graphics: A As smooth as you can get for hand-drawn animation. Over-the-top, like the Japanese game shows it seeks to emulate.

Controls: B+ A little frustration, where you don't get the same results for the same attempts, but the fun is in the challenge. Fortunately you don't die when you run out of time.

Originality: A- Not that much new in platformer tech but it's excellently packaged and executed.

Check out Ching Chong Beautiful at

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tiger Woods Parodies and Spoofs!

Admittedly, we've been slow to get on the Tiger Woods bandwagon. Why? Because spur-of-the-moment tributes and games based on celebrity hoo-hahs wind up being downright horrible.

But, this latest round of sack-the-celebrity (or in this case, celebrity in the sack) has turned up a few valuable minutes of entertainment, enough to get you through one fifteen-minute break.

Here's what we've dredged up with our Inter-net:

Nordegren Woods: An amusing parody of "Norwegian Wood" by the Beatles. Where in the world did they get that horrible CGI? XD

People from all around the world are responding to the scandal... even in England, where guitarist and singer Johnny Black cranked out "Celebrity Love Trauma", a "one song fits all" tip of the hat to celebrities who wake up to see themselves plastered across the world's consciousness.

Jimmy Kimmel enlisted Billy Dee Williams for this hysterical bit on a Tiger Woods Commemorative Plates Edition:

... and a take on his money-making options after leaving golf...

I know that Christmas is coming... so here are two 2-for-one videos...

Dermot and Dave from Dublin put together this amusing montage of five of the 12 days of Christmas. The lyrics are ok but the footage at the end is a riot.

Last of all, David Feherty foreshadowed a little with this amusing exchange...

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Friday, November 27, 2009

-Grid-: Deceptively Difficult, Superbly Slick

Candystand Games
is one of the more professional Flash game companies out there, with several entries on Newgrounds like Copy Cat, Gemworks, MagiGoo, and more. I haven't checked them out, but after staying home on Black Friday, I thought I'd try out their game -Grid-.

Graphics: Slick, quasi-3D background effects with abstract globes and a game board that disappears one row of tiles at a time make -Grid- an electric blue box of eye candy. The opening sequence especially is pure geometric overload. A-

Gameplay: A little repetitious and annoying when one wrong move turns off power and you have to carefully restore power bit by bit, or use the undo button. If you're an obsessive type, you can play this game all night to relax. Another bonus, for the sort of person who agonizes over a limited number of moves, is a cumulative score. Puzzle progression is solid, but I got stuck after five puzzles and just didn't care. B

Music: A bit on the wussy side (I like the electro-trance sounds of Electric Box a lot better), though ideal for accompanying the Zen-like state of mind you may need to enter for some levels. B-

Originality: I don't think "connect the circuit" has been unique for some time. While the presentation shows a lot of top-quality work, -Grid- suffers a brown-out trying to be a ground-breaker. C

Overall: If you're looking to get into a wild RPG that starts you out as a powerless peon and rocks you through battleground after battleground for a few hours, keep looking. What -Grid- is is a mind twist made for cold, logical types that plan their days 12 moves in advance. Despite the amazing graphics, to me it's a little soulless and dry. I honestly doubt anyone would pay to unlock the extra puzzles scattered through the level list, but you never know. The execution is near flawless, and the graphics border on mesmerizing when you clear a level. B-

The Slacker is a freelance writer and can be reached at
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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Guardian Rock: A Minimalist Smash

A lot of times, minimalist games are from designers who are just cutting their teeth on Flash development and coding. But some of the most accomplished and original games have a clean, simple look that belies months of designing effort.

Guardian Rock is a great example of this second category. A title that takes box-moving games and requires a little bit of planning, GR casts you in stone -- I mean, in the role of a stone. You're the Guardian Rock, the last defense your ancient, treasure-loaded temple has from hordes of cute little archaeologists that squeak when you wind up and pulp them with thousands of pounds of force.

The game's difficulty curve is patient enough, but it ramps up quickly so that you're no longer breezing through ten levels at a time. The simplicity and cleverness in level design make for some fiendish layouts, and I've only made it to level 11 so far.

Animation, sound effects and visual effects (like cracking blocks and knocking dust off the ceilings) go hand in hand with the wacky 8-bit Nintendo-meets-reggae background music. The controls are very simple (directional keys) but you are able to obtain keys for smart bombs that clear a level. Sometimes even this isn't enough as you need to make sure you're lined up to exit the level, and sometimes you can accidentally strand yourself.

One plus (or minus, depending on how much time you have) is the requirement that you use MochiCoins to purchase upgrades. So far I haven't made a commitment to Mochi Games -- their virtual currency costs money -- but maybe someday when they send an innocuous, must-join Web 2.0 invite I'll bite. In the meantime, Guardian Rock offers 48 free levels. This game's definitely got my attention, and time will tell if I'll get the 24-level upgrade packs.

Overall rating: A-
Graphics: A- Simple yet functional.
Gameplay: A. One-way blocks, destroyable blocks, and more make for an interesting cerebral trip. May bore shooter fans.
Sound: A. Funky, lively, and well-balanced.
Replay value: B+. Remains to be seen whether I'll spring for the upgrade packs, but levels 1-10 have been brain-busters at times.
Other: A. Well laid out, and the interface was good enough to save 7 levels I played before I added my Facebook account.

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The Vermont Country Store: Stepping Out For Some Down Time

My grandfather made a lacquered red and black checkerboard with built-in trays for holding checkers after games. The checkers themselves were cross-sections taken from a wooden broom but they were so well painted and finished that they looked factory-made. The checker trays had thin painted wooden doors that would drag over the lacquer with a cool clacking sound. One side held the checkers in a 3x4 pattern, while the other stored them in a series of Xs.

From what I was told about the old days, they seemed grim, hard, and largely joyless. But having seen that checkerboard, and played a few games too, I realized that even back then all it took was a little set-up to find a time and place for a social game or two.

I watched the last vestiges of country stores in the area vanish in the 1970s, and always kept a fondness for reminders of the "olden days". This video of the Vermont Country store made me want to stop by and unwind for a while.

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Yee-Haw! What Rednecks Do For Fun

For those jobs where you don't have the supplies to make little footballs and ping them around cubicles, the chance to have fun is still there. Check out this one-ride, free-admission, industrial-strength Redneck Trailer Park.

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