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Archive for the 'Gaming' Category

Who Has The Biggest Brain?

Dec 23, 2007 in 5 Stars, Facebook, Gaming, Just For Fun

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Rating: ★★★★★

Who Has The Biggest Brain? Facebook Application

Facebook is finally starting to attract real companies that make real commercial quality applications. Playfish is one of those companies and Who Has The Biggest Brain? is one of those applications.

Playfish has raised the bar quite high for all Facebook apps with their new Who Has The Biggest Brain? game.

This game’s cute style, animation, graphics, music and sound not only add to the fun… they quickly demonstrate a Facebook application’s potential. Who Has The Biggest Brain? easily sets itself apart from the majority of Facebook apps that look like (and probably were) developed by high school kids.

Who Has The Biggest Brain Screenshot 1   Who Has The Biggest Brain Screenshot 2
Who Has The Biggest Brain Screenshot 3   Who Has The Biggest Brain Screenshot 4

They throw a few fun little brain tests at you, such as math or memory… You’re given a time limit and you must answer the questions as quickly as possible.

Who Has The Biggest Brain? Facebook Application That might not sound like much fun, but they way they do it… it is fun — a lot of fun.

At the end of the game your results will be tallied up and your score will be compared to your friends.

Hrmm… I think I socred somewhere around “Neanderthal”. BRB, I’m gonna have to go play some more…

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Smarty Pants

Dec 10, 2007 in 5 Stars, Facebook, Gaming, Just For Fun

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Rating: ★★★★★

From Console to Social Application

Electronic Arts, Inc. (“EA”), publishers of praticly every major video game released in the past few years have recently set their sights on Facebook. Could this spell trouble for the little guys or is EA just dipping their toes in hoping to pick up a few more sales?

I had the pleasure of playing a new trivia game for the Nintendo Wii called Smarty Pants over the Thanksgiving Holiday. Developed by EA, with over 22,000 questions and interesting game play that involves such gestures as actually having to raise your hand with the Wii remote to buzz in answers, Smarty Pants is a definite party pleaser. Arguably not the best video game, not even close, it does have the distinct advantage of being the only game in the trivia genre for the Nintendo Wii at the time being. These two factors alone tend to earn it an average 6.5/10 rating by most console video game reviewers.

Smarty Pants for the Wii was released on November 15th and retails for around $49.99 but can be picked up for as low as $24.99 if you’re a Black Friday bargain hunter. Not a bad deal until you discover that you can play Smarty Pants on Facebook with all of your friends for free!

Smarty Pants

Smarty Pants for Facebook is not quite the entire game, but depending on who you ask this may be an advantage. The somewhat repetitive and annoying intermissions that you religiously pound the A-button to skip through on the Wii are lacking on its Facebook clone. Instead it gets right down to the nitty gritty of serving up a buffet of trivia questions at a heart pounding pace that will make you pull your hair out.

In the Facebook version of Smarty Pants you start a new game by inviting all of your friends that you wish to challenge. Each game consists of 10 random trivia questions from several categories that include; art, books, entertainment, fashion, games, places and people, science, and sports. Each player takes his or her turn answering the same set of 10 questions conveniently on their own time. Once you start answering though there is a very fast clock that counts down each question. The longer you take the answer each question, the difficulty of the question, and the correctness of your answer all contribute towards the points you earn. The player with the most points per game is the winner.

The Smarty Pants Facebook port was developed by social application development house, Context Optional, Inc. for EA. The “smarty pants” over at Context Optional, Inc. are well versed in developing viral applications for Facebook and their expertise is very noticeable in Smarty Pants. One such viral feature involves upgrading a pair of so called smarty pants that each player starts off. As players earn more points they level up and acquire upgraded pants and “bling” to match them. The higher the level of pants you possess the more bragging rights you have. Your pants are proudly on display in your Smarty Pants Profile Box and every upgrade is broadcast to your Mini-Feed. Discovering the different pairs of pants you can earn, like clown pants, can be entertaining at first but eventually feels too aggressive at the pace in which they are earned and broadcast.

Smarty Pants Mini-Feed

The Result

Overall as a trivia game Smarty Pants for Facebook is very entertaining, the clock is fast and sends your heart racing trying to compete against your friends scores. Some users have complained on the forums that the questions were too targeted towards US residents, especially the sports related questions, so they have made an effort to strike a better balance for foreigners by reducing the number of sports related questions. This is just one of the many issues that Context Optional, Inc. had to overcome while porting Smarty Pants from the Wii to Facebook.

The game obviously serves as one giant advertisement for the Wii version with its noticible banner on every page but I would have to say that I’ve probably had more fun competing with all of my friends on Facebook than I have playing it on the Wii. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Facebook version does more harm than good for EA by cannabilizing sales of Smarty Pants. Not an uncommon problem for third party services who try to draw Facebook users onto their own services only to find out that their Facebook application performs better than their standalone application. Context Optional, Inc. did a beautiful job in porting Smarty Pants to Facebook, perhaps too good of a job.

With the recent formation of Social Gaming Network (SGN) by Webs to focus entirely on creating games for the social graph will we start to see behemoths like EA entering this space soon? With the success of Smarty Pants for Facebook I think the game is about to change.

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Battle Hangman

Nov 29, 2007 in 3 Stars, Facebook, Gaming, Just For Fun

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Rating: ★★★☆☆

It’s Hangman. You know the rules.

That’s the slogan to the Battle Hangman application by Scott Agass and Richard Matthews that brings the classic game of hangman to Facebook. They couldn’t be more right! Battle Hangman is exactly that.

Battle Hangman You Got Hunged!

It’s just like you remember it, you think of a word or phrase and have a friend try to guess it one letter at a time. For each correct guess you fill in all the characters of the word where that letter appears. For each wrong guess you draw another stick figure limb hanging from a noose. First the head, then the torso, followed by the right arm, left arm, right leg, and finally the left leg. If they guess the entire word or phrase before you draw their entire body then they win. Otherwise they get “hunged” (hanged).

Have no friends? Well you probably don’t belong on Facebook but you can still enjoy Battle Hangman by playing against the computer. Soloists aside, this is actually a great way to build up your score.

Battle Hangman provides the person being challenged with a hint by requiring the challenger to choose from a select group of topics that include; Movies, Books, Song Titles, Bands/Musical Artists, Famous People, Places, Landmarks, Catchphrases, TV Shows, and Sports. Obviously if you’re a cut-throat winner who wants nothing but points you can cheat and throw in random words, misspellings, or off-topic answers — but that wouldn’t be much fun would it?

Battle Hangman Challenge

The point system works like so. Challenge a friend and if they don’t solve it, you get 10 points. Solve a challenge and you can earn up to 20 points or as low as 5 points, depending on how many limbs you have remaining. You can also earn a bonus 50 points per friend you invite, but that seems a little bit unfair.

The game is well developed. We didn’t run into any technical issues trying to use it. The interface is a little cluttered but not enough to stop you from being able to navigate your way around. The game has cute little stick figure animations that are a nice addition beyond the classic hand drawn game of hangman. You can also keep track of your score versus your friends or compete globally on the leaderboard for the most points.

The Result

If you like hangman you’ll probably enjoy Battle Hangman. I probably won’t keep it installed just because I haven’t played hangman since about the 4th grade and there is kind of a reason for that. There is some fun in the nostalgia of it though. We had a few laughs in the office trying to solve each others puzzles. I definitely suggest checking it out. At least until 6pm when you clock out of work.

_ _ i n s _ a _ _ e d

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Scrabulous

Nov 27, 2007 in 5 Stars, Education, Facebook, Gaming

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Rating: ★★★★★ Scrabulous Logo

CAZIQUES, QUIXOTRY, BEZIQUE and MUZJIKS. Wait, those are words? Not only are they words but they are the record holding words played for:

  • Highest single play (SOWPODS) – CAZIQUES
  • Highest single play (OSPD) – QUIXOTRY
  • Highest opening move score (SOWPODS) – BEZIQUE
  • Highest opening move score possible (OSPD) – MUZJIKS

If you’re wondering what the heck SOWPODS and OSPD are, don’t fret I’ll get to that later. In the mean time if I haven’t destroyed your mind or your ocular sensory and have piqued your interest instead you will now promptly install Scrabulous on Facebook if you haven’t already.

Developed by Jayant Agarwalla and Rajat Agarwalla, Scrabulous (also found at scrabulous.com), for all intents and purposes, is Scrabble©. While its not technically Scrabble© (trademark ™ of Hasbro) it uses Scrabble© rules, official Scrabble© tournament dictionaries and the exact Scrabble© board. How they do it, I don’t know nor do I care, I just want to play.

Scoring and Play

The game uses a points system that combines numerical values assigned to each letter tile as well as point multipliers (2x letter, 2x word, 3x letter, 3x word) arranged throughout the 15×15 grid game board. If you can play all 7 of your tiles in a single turn you are awarded an additional 50 points on top of the word’s normal score! This is commonly referred to as a Bingo.

Scrabulous Scoring and Play

Scrabulous can be played with a minimum of 2 and maximum of 4 players. To start the game is simple but what lies within the world of Scrabulous is a game of mystery, deceit, trapping, blocking, theft, treachery, defense, offense, and.. The most important aspect, vocabulary! Don’t be fooled by words and words alone, Scrabulous is most definitely a game of strategy.

Words are formed left to right, top to bottom; similar to a crossword puzzle. No diagonal words or backwards spelling allowed, unless of course it’s a palindrome! Each word must consist of a minimum of 2 letters and must appear in the dictionary/wordlist your game is using. On each turn a player can choose to pass, exchange tiles, or play his tiles on the board. Click here for a more detailed explanation on the rules and game play.

Creating/Choosing Games

There are several ways to start games in Scrabulous. You may choose to Create a New game, Host a Table, Join a Table, Browse through your friend list to see who else has it installed or peruse a global directory of Scrabulous players. Regardless of which method you pick all games come with the same options that are chosen on creation.

Scrabulous Create Games

Opponents aside, you must choose type of Dictionary, Game Type, Game Speed, Requests Limit, Request Duration, and Notes.

Dictionary: English SOWPODS, English TWL, Italian, French. As promised here’s the explanation of SOWPODS and OSPD. Although for Scrabulous the only 2 dictionaries that apply are SOWPODS and TWL.

  • SOWPODS - The term was coined to cover the convergence of the two international Scrabble word sources. OSW and OSPD. It is an acronym derived from anagramming OSW and OSPD. Used in tournament Scrabble in all English-speaking countries except North America, Thailand and Israel
  • TWL also known as OWL – Official Tournament and Club Word List. This is an expanded version of the OSPD. The words that were included are mostly those which were considered offensive. It is used primarily in North America, Thailand and Israel.
  • OSPD - The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, a publication derived primarily from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, but also includes words from four other major college dictionaries. OSPD is exclusively used in North America, Thailand and Israel
  • OSW - The Official Scrabble Words, a publication derived solely from the Chambers Dictionary, published in Scotland, OSW is exclusively used in the UK.

Scrabulous Game Options Game Type: Regular or Challenge. A Regular game removes the option to challenge your opponent and instead gives you an automatic word checker that will validate any word played upon submission and reject any word not in the dictionary. There is no penalty for invalid words and the player can continue until a word is accepted. Players may also use the dictionary tool in Regular games. Challenge games afford the players the opportunity to play any letter combination they want leaving the checking up to you. When you do challenge a player you feel is playing a fake or misspelled word, if you are right the player loses his turn and the points from that round. If you are wrong, you lose your turn. Players may not use the dictionary tool in Challenge games.

Game Speed: fast (users are online and want to play), medium (may take a while), and slow (will play whenever I have time).

Request Limit: You may also choose the number of requests the host can receive, for example if you select 3 your game request will expire once 3 challengers have joined your table.

Request Duration: How long your host request is available, anywhere from 15 – 90 minutes.

Notes: (Optional) Anything you want people to see when viewing your listing will appear here.

Features and Tools

Scrabulous comes loaded with built in cheats and tools. Not only can you play a game where the game itself does your spellchecking, you have a built in word list, a tile distribution breakdown, a dictionary lookup, refresh board, move list, delete/resign, and a quick help link.

Scrabulous Word ListWord List: A complete 2 letter Word list for both TWL and SOWPODS game play.

Scrabulous Tile DistributionTile Distribution: A complete list of how many tiles per letter exist. Use this to see whats been played and whats still either in your opponents tray or waiting to be picked up.

Scrabulous Dictionary LookupDictionary Lookup: Check to see if any word you want to play is valid! This option can only be used in Regular mode, does not function in Challenge mode.

Scrabulous RefreshRefresh Board: Refresh the board to see if there is new chat or if your opponent has played.

Scrabulous Move ListSee Move List: View complete move list history for your game including each turns point total and your overall total.

Scrabulous Delete/ResignDelete/Resign: If you don’t want to play a game you can delete or resign. Games with 3 or less moves are deleted and do not show up in your statistics or game history, however if there are 4 or more moves, you will resign and count it as a loss.

Scrabulous HelpHelp: Quick links to the game rules, faq, practice mode and feedback

There is also a shuffle button for your tiles, an alphabetical sort button for your tiles, and the ability to spell directly on the board so no drag and drop required. To help with the mathematically impaired, Scrabulous also shows you your score on your current play before you even commit which proves to be incredibly useful for placement comparison.

Under “Completed Games” you can access all your past wins and losses and view the boards as well as the play history per game. Under “My Stats” you can see your rating, how many games you’re playing, how many games you’ve completed, how many games you’ve won, lost, drawn and your best scoring Bingo as well as your Bingo History. If you want to see the overall Leaderboard simply click “Global Stats”. There are a few setting options that you can configure. You can choose to remove your profile from the Scrabulous Users page, select whether or not you want your board by default to show the numbered multipliers, enable a 2 minute auto refresh, and set your default dictionary and game type. If you dont want users to see your online status, not to worry you can adjust that as well.

Cheat Tools?? That’s Crap!

So why play at all? Because its fun! Don’t believe me? Ask the other 544,985 active daily users. There’s a reason why its one of the top performing apps on Facebook! Even with the built in cheats, the game is addictive. Its turn based play allows you to have as many simultaneous games as you choose, at any pace you want. Most importantly Scrabulous educates you. Don’t know the word your opponent just played? I bet you’re going to look it up and use it the next chance you get.

Some users feel the built in tools cheapen the game, but personally I love them. It allows me to be a little more creative in my strategy and encourages me to find new ways to play tricky combos. Unfortunately because it is turn based, with opponents behind a computer and on the internet, cheating is going to occur. While there are numerous Scrabble word builders available online it still doesn’t stop me from playing. The challenge exists regardless of what my opponents may or may not be using, Scrabulous itself challenges me as much as any player does, for every time I play I’m forced to rethink position and strategy to improve my own game. Whether I perform poorly or well, I learn something new every game. And no, for the 100th time, I’m not cheating. I know the word XYSTI because someone kicked my butt with it, and you bet your hiney im jotting down and utilizing words that have decimated my win/loss ratio! If you don’t like to lose and have trust issues, get off the internet.

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The Brain Game

Nov 26, 2007 in 2 Stars, Facebook, Gaming, Just For Fun

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Rating: ★★☆☆☆

So the latest app to hit my Facebook News Feed is The Brain Game by Fendoo, Ltd. At the rapid pace of these news feeds I’m quickly learning which of my friends are right brained and which are left brained. The Brain Game promises to tell you which side of the brain you use the most by playing this “simple and amazing” game. It also takes the liberty of informing all of your friends of your results.

The Brain Game Right or Left Brained

Brain Surgery

The Brain Game is able to determine this using a completely non-invasive method that is as “simple” as advertised. Without spoiling too much of the fun, the basic premise is that you stare at an animation of a spinning dancer’s silhouette.

The Brain Game Dancer

Based on the direction she appears to be spinning to you, clockwise or “anti-clockwise” (counter-clockwise), The Brain Game will determine if you are right brained or left brained. It says I am right brained.

The Brain Game Results

The Result

The Brain Game works exactly as advertised. It’s incredibly simple. It only took me 2 minutes from install to results. That includes the bonus brain teaser game they throw in after you get your test results.

Unfortunately for me though the “amazing” part is lacking, mostly because I’ve already seen this optical illusion elsewhere on the Internet. I am also able to change the direction of the dancer at will simply depending on what part of the screen I am looking at. While it is possible that I am whole brained as other test have shown in the past, it is more likely that the science behind this test isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

If you are like me though and enjoy brain teasers you will probably get a couple minutes of fun out of The Brain Game and more fun seeing the results from your friends. You probably won’t keep it installed though since it doesn’t provide any continued value or service.

Uninstalled

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Dolumar [alpha]

Nov 26, 2007 in 3 Stars, Facebook, Gaming, Just For Fun

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Rating: ★★★☆☆

Dolumar

Dolumar is currently in alpha (early development), which means it’s incomplete and may have bugs — which is and does.

Dolumar is definately in the early stages, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking at.

In this game you build a kingdom. You build resources and recruit your army (which of course requires more resources).

Dolumar has a great interface. I really like the graphics and the dragable map, though the game is not without it’s faults.

Dolumar is very slow paced — a little too slow.  Ok, paaaaaaiiiiinfully slow. Building a single resource can take up to 3 hours. So click and come back after dinner.

Sending your army out to attack will take 36 hours (yes real life hours, not game hours). But don’t worry, after they attack, it only takes them 18 hours to come back home (if they survive).

What you can build is also pretty limited.  You can build resources (wood, grain, iron, etc.) and recruit infantry, that’s it.

Even though it’s excruciatingly slow, I still enjoy this game. I make my one move a day (which usually takes me less than a minute), then check back tomorrow.

It’s very clear that Dolumar is in alpha, but it’s also clear this game has a lot potential. I’d keep an eye on this one…

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WarBook

Nov 22, 2007 in 5 Stars, Facebook, Gaming, Just For Fun

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Rating: ★★★★★

Warbook has over 137k daily active users, 22k+ topics in the discussion board and 11k+ reviews. It goes without saying it’s popular… but why?

If you haven’t already installed it, WarBook is a highly addictive multiplayer RPG. WarBook lets you create your Hero from one of 8 classes based on your preferences (attack, defense, magic, money, etc). You earn an hourly salary (seems to be typical for FaceBook games), build your army and attack others. All pretty standard stuff.

WarBook screenshot

The game play is pretty simple and limited in what you can do. You buy more land, earning you more gold… thus allowing you to build your army so you can attack. The game is played with standard html input boxes and buttons. So why am I so addicted?

I’m addicted because of the simplicity. I can log in, spend all my gold, upgrade my kingdom and maybe counter-attack a few people who attacked me, all within 2 minutes… then I’m on my way again checking in on my other Facebook apps or browsing the web.

You accumulate gold hourly, so there’s always a reason to come back in a few more minutes and ruin a few kingdoms.

The game isn’t without a few flaws. It’s full of griefing; you will constantly be attacked by kingdoms 3x the size of yours. Just get used to it, after a while you don’t even notice… and you can always pay someone even bigger or join an alliance to grief them for you ;)

All of those 137k+ users are trying to access WarBook at the same time, so expect a lot of blank pages and errors.

If you try to use their “search” feature to find a kingdom you can attack, you will be extremely disappointed. It has to be the worst search I’ve ever encountered. It’s almost completely worthless. But I guess that can be a good thing, because it’s hard for people to find you!

Attack me if you dare, I’ll put you in my black book ;)

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WAR

Nov 21, 2007 in 2 Stars, Facebook, Gaming

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Rating: ★★☆☆☆

WAR is a Facebook implementation of the classic card game of WAR. You probably remember this game from your child hood. It’s about the simplest standard 52-card deck game around.

Classic WAR

In the classic game of WAR the deck is divided evenly amongst each player and then each player draws and flips a card. The player with the highest card wins and gets all of the cards from that hand. In the event of a tie you go to “war”. When you go to war you each place 3 cards face down and flip over a 4th card. The winner of a war gets all of the cards from that hand including the face down ones. In the event of another tie during war, this process is repeated. The player who wins all (or most) of the cards in the end is declared the winner.

Facebook WAR

In the Facebook version of WAR each player is given 5 cards face down. Each player flips their cards over in order, one card per hand. Each player is awarded 2 points for each winning hand per game and 1 bonus point for each game won.

WAR

While this sounds like a lot of fun and may bring back childhood nostalgia like wonder, it really isn’t. Either the game of WAR never was fun and we were all just once naive children or this implementation is poorly executed. The main problem with WAR for Facebook is how SLOW it is. Unfortunately each player has to log in and flip their card over manually each hand, one card per hand and then wait for their opponent to log back in and flip their card. Now there is nothing wrong with turn based games, especially casual gaming of Facebook, but usually those games involve some kind of action or entertainment per turn or hand. Logging in to flip a card for a 50/50 chance of winning with no skill at all involved is just not fun.

I had hoped this would be much more exciting, I have fond memories of endless hours of playing WAR as a child but Facebook WAR just does not live up to those expectations. If anyone is friends with the authors; Shashank Senapaty, Matt, and Shrikrishna Shrin please SuperPoke! them and tell them to put the fun back in WAR!

The Result

Uninstalled after the week it took to complete one game.

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