Top 11 of '11 (iOS). Number 8 - Monsters Ate My Condo.

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

Monsters Ate My Condo is brought to us by Adult Swim games, and is copyright of The Cartoon Network. I am forty years old and not cool, so I don't know what Adult Swim is. But it must be alright if it can give us a game like Monsters Ate My Condo.

You're possibly wondering what the hell I'm talking about. Monsters Ate My Condo is actually a match-three game. But it's almost certainly the most mental match-three game you'll ever play.

I love match-three games. This is strange, because I'm generally almost allergic to puzzle games, which is how the match-three game is generally categorised. But, if done well and with a twist, I find them tremendously enjoyable. Among my favourite match-three games are Puzzle Quest and Zookeeper, both fantastic examples which stray from the path of the mundane and liven up the formula with their particular takes.

Waaa-haa-haaaa!!! Where's me money?

Monsters Ate My Condo is very unusual, in that you have to match three within just one column. Usually, a game will have its pieces laid out across a grid for you to do your tile/jewel/animal-swapping. This game gives you one big tower of condominiums to match.

It's as odd as it sounds. As the condos drop from the sky, monsters stand on either side, dancing, grinning and looking ridiculous. One of them looks a bit like Eugene Krabs. I like that one.

There are four monsters in total, and each is a different colour. Conveniently, the condos come in four different colours. And, get this, those four colours are the same colours as the monsters! You'd never have guessed that, would you?

If you have to feed a monster, feed him properly. Or give him Chewits.

Your goal is to make blocks of three or more condos of the same colour. Do that, and the set of matching coloured combos will disappear. Not only that, but if a monster of the same colour is on screen, it will step aside and be replaced by one of the other monsters.

This adds a bit of extra strategy to the game. To play the game, you have to swipe out condos that impede your progress. Swipe a condo block to its like-coloured monster, and you'll make it happy. Feed it a block of the wrong colour, though, and it'll get mad. Too many wrong colours and it'll attack your tower, making it imbalanced. And if the tower topples over, your game is over.

Matching three or more doesn't just get rid of those blocks, it will also re-stabilise your tower. So it's important to give yourself as many opportunities as possible. Having said that, it's possible to manually pull the blocks, Jenga-style, back into place without actually swiping them out. It's just a bit fiddly... you might as well swipe it into a monster's gaping maw.

Looks like things are going great, considering!

This all sounds terribly easy, but of course, obstacles pop up as you progress. Concrete blocks will fall into the tower, and these can't be matched with anything. They don't cause any harm, they're merely an obstruction... but you'll want them out of the way. Create a block of three or more on or around it to get rid of it.

Of more concern is the flaming condo. This one will explode when a timer runs down, so you'll have to move fast to erase this threat. Again, you need to match three or more on or around it, but be quick about it!

There's so much going on in Monsters Ate My Condo, I could write for ages. But that's a waste of playing time. You can level up, which means your tower grows higher. You can create bronze, silver, gold and diamond condos, which are worth more points and which power up the monsters for a time, activating their special abilities.

Or rather, they were. Oh well, time to start again...

Games can last a long time, so unlike previous entries in this list, it's not necessarily great for killing five minutes. You could always pause it, I suppose. If you like high scores though, this could be your game... get good enough, and you can score BIIIIILLLLIIIOOOOONS!

Monsters Ate My Condo is really good. It takes the match-three game in a different direction, and throws in a large amount of the silly. It's a combination that works tremendously well, and has had me addicted since I bought it. It could do the same for you, especially as the universal app is just 69p. If you've got any liking for matching three of anything, Monsters Ate My Condo should be right up your apartment block.

Advent Calendar - December 15th.

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

Fifteen (iPhone/iPod Touch)

Sorry folks, you're not getting much out of me with this one. I tried to find something decent for today, really I did.

Fifteen is a sliding block puzzle. You have a 4x4 grid, with fifteen numbered tiles and a space. You shuffle the grid, and then waste hours of your life trying to get them back in order. That's it. No thrills. No surprises.

Sigh. Here we go, then...

I used to quite enjoy playing with a plastic one of these at my grandmother's house. But that was thirty years ago, and those were simpler times. Now, I really can't be bothered. I haven't got the patience any more.

To be honest, that's probably as good as I'll get...

I said you weren't getting much... but there's really not much anyone can write about this game. Oh well. Maybe I should have played a flight simulator. Maybe I'll have better luck tomorrow...

Number 6.

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

Angry Birds (iPhone/iPod Touch)

There really isn't much that needs to be said about Angry Birds. I loved it when I first played it, and I still love it now. IT's become something of a phenomenon, though, pretty much taking the world by storm.

There's about eight of us in my office that have Angry Birds, and the great thing is, it appeals to all kinds and all needs. The OCD gamers have had an amazing time, blasting through all the levels and feeling a compulsion to three-star the lot. That takes some doing, too! But those that have less time on their hands can just play two or three, or until they get stuck, and then put it down again.

Well, that's just an accident waiting to happen...

It really is a genius piece of design. A level can last ten seconds or, if you get stuck, an absolute age. But they can always be figured out, and you can fit sessions into almost any spare time you might have.

Since I first played Angry Birds, an update has been released, which adds even more levels to the game, plus a couple of extra little features. It was fantastic value for 59p before, but now there's absolutely no excuse for anybody not to own it. Unless they don't own an iPhone or an iPod Touch. That'd do it.

Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine (Sega Megadrive)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , ,

Why do I subject myself to puzzle games? Whyyyyyyyyy? I know what they're about, and I know what they'll do to me. And yet, I'll try them on the off-chance it's one of those rare Puzzle Quest types that'll have me hooked. It hardly ever works out that way.

If you know what Puyo Puyo is, then you know what Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine is. Groups of jelly-like coloured beans will drop from the top of the screen, and you have to quickly arrange them in such a way that like colours will be grouped together. Get a group of four and they'll disappear. And as you're facing off against an opponent, the quicker you clear your groups, or better yet, the more chains of groups you make, the more damage you'll cause to your opponent's playfield.

Why don't you do that, then? I'll get on with something else.

It's all very familiar, although this was probably one of the first games of this particular type. And as with all the rest of these games, I'm rubbish at it. There are thirteen stages in the game... I managed to reach the second. The first was actually quite easy. I was pleasantly surprised. But on the second stage, the opponent took off at breakneck speed, and I just can't play these games that way. Defeat was inevitable, every time.

Well, there's no getting out of that. Looks like my time is up.

And so, my time with the game came to an end in predictable fashion. Worth a try, I suppose, but the outcome was inevitable. If you like games like this, well, this one is pretty cutesy and obviously a nice example. But it's absolutely not for me.

Angry Birds (iPhone/iPod Touch)

by PaulEMoz in , , , , ,

Say the words "physics-based puzzle game" to me, and I'll more than likely run off screaming, as fast as my not-so-little legs will carry me. On the odd occasion, though, something will come along that's just engaging, charming and entertaining enough to grab me. Angry Birds is one such game.

Angry Birds is, on the face of it, ridiculous. It's got a hilariously stupid premise, which is very endearing. Green pigs have stolen the birds' eggs, and that has made them angry. They want revenge. How do they get it? By, in true fairytale fashion, blowing the pigs' houses down. But they don't huff and puff, oh no. They launch themselves from catapults, knocking over any structures in their way before exploding in a final coup-de-grace.

So, feathered friends... how do we take out this building?

This is the kind of imagination that has led to the games industry being so varied. I love that idea, and I love the angry scowls on the birds' faces as they line up, waiting to be flung at great speeds towards wood, brick, glass and pork. Tremendous.

The game has a lot of levels, and a little bit of depth, too. As you progress, other kinds of birds become available for greater destructive potential. There's some trial and error in the gameplay... you're unlikely to get many efforts right first time. It's a bit like Worms in that respect... aim and fire, then adjust for your next go and hope to hit the mark more accurately.

GIDDOWER! That'll do it!

There's high-scoring potential here, too. You get points (seemingly) for accuracy, and for the things you blow up, and there are bonuses for the number of birds you have left at the end of each screen. You're ranked for each effort too... anywhere from one to three stars for successfully completing the screen. Yet another way to draw you back into the game.

I've said it's like Worms... it's also, basically, a 2D version of Boom Blox, that great Wii game. Maybe more of a cross between the two... either way, I'm enjoying it a hell of a lot, which is something of a surprise to me, and a very pleasant one.

Aqua Aqua: Wetrix 2 (PS2)

by PaulEMoz in , , ,

No, I've never played Wetrix 1, and I had no idea what this game was about. I picked it up for a mate and figured I'd give it a blast before I passed it on.

So what is it about, then?

Well, it's a puzzle game. Great, my favourite! In this one, you have a plot of land, onto which you must drop Tetris-style blocks of mud - not to fill up the land, but to create reservoirs into which you must drop water. So the trick is to create a completely enclosed space, so that the water remains enclosed. At this point, things happen, such as dropping a fireball into the reservoir to evaporate the water, or creating a rainbow for a bonus.

Other variations are available; for example, you may be given a plot that already contains several filled lakes, and you have to drop "downers" in strategic places in order to create just one lake. Do that, and evaporate all the water, and you win. Leave any enclosed lakes and you don't.

No, I don't know if that'll help

It all sounds great in theory, but as I've said before, I'm no good with puzzle games, and this one is certainly no different. I simply couldn't grasp the concept... well, it wasn't so much that, as I couldn't "see" the playfield properly. You need to be exact in your placement of blocks, and I constantly missed by one or two places, even with the ground highlighted where my block would land. This misplacement meant that I would have gaps in the walls and the water would run out, so I would lose.

You want to know how far I got? The third level of the tutorial. And I played for over an hour. I'm surprised I stuck it out that long, to be honest. That doesn't make Aqua Aqua a bad game... it's just not for me, not even in the slightest. Better arrange that meeting sooner rather than later...

Soul (XBox 360 Indie Games)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

I had thought about downloading a few indie game demos, and maybe doing a little featurette on them. And then I came across a game called Soul, and was completely stopped in my tracks.

In this game, you start off dead. There you are, just lying there, dead. And then a light rises from your body... your soul. The idea is to guide your soul into the light, and away from the bowels of hell.

The basic gameplay is very straightforward... it's basically a "don't touch the wire!" game. In other words, each screen has a course you must navigate with your soul, without touching anything. Touch something and your soul will burst, and you'll go back to the start of the screen.

This one's relatively easy... there's only one way you can go!

It's the way the game is presented that makes it so effective. The game has a dirty, grimy look to it, which is very atmospheric. Besides the backgrounds, there are nasty, growling monsters which spring up (or down!) at you. And at rare moments, a scary face pops onto the screen and screams at you, which is quite unsettling, at least the first few times it happens.

The only downside is that once you press Start, that's it. You can't pause the game, and you can't save it. And there are no lives or score... you just play to get to the end, or not at all. It can be a bit frustrating at times, but that's the nature of the gameplay, and your own cack-handedness.

Still, I don't see those problems as gamebreaking. Soul is actually a real little indie delight. It's extremely compelling, once you get started, and although there are those frustrations which might see you switching it off, you'll probably come back to it soon after. I mean, come on. It's 80 points. That's about 65p in UK money. Just buy it. I dare you.

Jumping Jackson (Commodore Amiga)

by PaulEMoz in , , , ,

So much for my huge pile of Amiga games. It's not as big as it looks, purely because a lot of them don't work! And the ones that don't work are the ones that are boxed and complete and in immaculate condition! But the ones that are disk only and slung in a big cardboard box seem to be fine...

I just picked anything out of desperation tonight, after three fails. Jumping Jackson was the lucky winner. I'd never heard of it, and as I only had the floppy and no instructions, I had absolutely no idea what it was likely to involve.

You can imagine my "joy" when I discovered it was a puzzle game. But wait! All is not lost! Because Jumping Jackson actually turned out to be good fun! Is that a flying pig...?

Jumping Jackson sees you take on the role of a big-nosed music fan, whose world is a little on the quiet side. What he loves most of all is rock music. He has a collection of record players in his odd world of grey slabs, but no records to play on there. So he has to fashion them from somewhere.

Are they... audio cassettes in the bottom bar? Wow, this game really is old!

There are a number of coloured slabs in the world. Walking over them changes their colours. Once you have all the slabs in a group at the same colour, you'll be given a record. You then have to collect the record, and put it on the appropriate coloured player. Do this, and a line of the tune (bass, drums) starts up. Do the same with the next colour, and another line starts. Once you've placed all the records on the appropriate turntables, the entire tune will play.

It's a fun game mechanic, and it feels good to build the tune up. Of course, it's not as easy as that... there's a variety of classical music instruments wandering around in an attempt to stop the rock! You do have teleports around the levels to help you, and you'll need to figure out where these take you if you want to win the level, and use them strategically to avoid the bad guys.

It's a bit on the crazy side, but fairly typical of that era, and quite endearing. And most of all, it's enjoyable and not all that frustrating, which is rare when it comes to me and puzzle games. Looks like my desperation pick turned out alright, after all!