Kiki's Games Blog

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Winning Streak

Now this is a strange one.
The whole concept behind Winning Streak is that it's you buy some scratch cards, then send them in, to possibly get on the TV show & win lots of money on-air.
Now, this is the vexing thing -- this particular "game show" is terrible!

To start, the presenter introduces each of the 5 contestants, they give us a quick run-down of all the people they know & dragged along (cue quick shot to audience, complete with home-made "GO MICHAEL!!"-type posters) and then the game is on. And what a game it is!


I don't even know how to start. There's a round where the contestants are asked, one after the other, to pick a number from 1 to 5. That's it. And they win 1000's of Euro, or even a car!
Then, we have a series of "rounds" where each contestant comes up to a massive touchscreen (it looks to be made of 4 LCD panels) and -- does nothing harder than pick a "destination" in Ireland for a little robot-thing to travel to. Then, once the animation (crude, repeated and, most bizarrely, prone to slow-down!) is finished, they pick from 3-7 little icons & win a prize -- cash, a car, or a holiday. That's it -- no skill, no questions, just "I'll pick the diamond/bell/ugly-as-hell-cat" -- the only possible "challenge" occurs when there's the slim possibility that the contestant can get a better prize.

The show actually goes on for a quite a bit (with lots of whooping and whistling from the crowd), but to tell you the truth, I just couldn't take much more of this. There's no challenge here -- it's all just fluff to cover up some terrible animations, an excuse to use large touchscreens (which contestants have trouble operating), and a computer-generated (and, possibly, remote-controlled) random prize generator to make up for lack of any good game design. In other words, perfect for the National Lottery to make you gamble money.

(p.s.: I apologise in advance about the terrible writing style -- hopefully, I'll get better as the weeks go on!)

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 08, 2006

MAME: Pac-Man

Created by Namco in 1979, Pac-Man is one of the enduring classic arcade games - it is regularly in the top 10 games downloaded for mobile phones, and has spawned many spin-off sequels -- the most original being, in my opinion, Pac-land (1984, arcade), Pac-Man Vs. (2003, GameCube - in which the ghosts are controlled by other players) & Pac-Pix (2005, DS - where Pac-Man is literally drawn on the screen by the player).

Pac-Man takes place in a maze-like screen. The passages are filled with small, glowing yellow dots which must all be collected to advance to the next level. There are also 4 larger "power pellets" in each corner, which I'll get to later.
Pac-Man's player avatar is a very simple shape -- a day-glo yellow character which alternates between a circular, to circular with a wedge-shaped hole to represent Pac-Man's ever-opening mouth. He is controlled with a four-direction joystick (or in MAME, 4 keyboard keys).

To create challenge, 4 coloured ghosts roam the mazes & attempt to tag the player's Pac-Man character. They each have their own chase-style, which experienced players are known to exploit to never get caught.
If the player collects a "power pellet", all ghosts will turn dark blue, and their expression will change from their normal searching eyes, to expressions of fear -- if they are eaten by the player in this state, their eyes will humourously to the middle of the maze & the ghost will return, back in its regular colour. (After c. 20levels, ghosts cannot be eaten).
Also, occasionally fruit will appear in the middle of the maze, which can be collected for more points.
When all the dots in a level are collected, the maze refreshes, and the player plays the same level again, only with faster ghosts.

Final view
Pac-Man's cartoony presentation helps it gain a lot of character, and also makes it seem very friendly to non-regular games players. It's very simple gameplay (control is purely by joystick) makes it very easy to get into, while mastering it requires hours of dedication to realise the patterns necessary for survival at the later levels' faster speeds.

MAME: Asteroids

Asteroids was one of the founding fathers of the shoot-em-up genre.
Elegantly presented, Asteroids is drawn using Vector graphics instead of sprites. It can be imagined that its classy, white-on-black graphics would have glowed through any darkly-lit arcade as was common at the game's release (1979).

The player's control consist of clock- and counter-clockwise turning, a fire button, a thrust button & a hyperspace button. To slow down, it is necessary to turn and fire thrust in the opposite direction to one's momentum. As the gameplay takes place on a closed-in space, leaving the area's borders will cause the ship (Spacewar!'s classic wedge) to reappear at the opposite side of the screen. The hyperspace button will teleport the player's ship to a random location on the screen, with the danger of either random destruction, or being in the path of an incoming asteroid.
These asteroids are created at the beginning of each level (starting with 4, increasing by 2 each level to a max of 12). Each asteroid, when shot, will break up into 2 medium-sized rocks, with each of these breaking up into 2 smaller ones before being finally vanquished. Additionally, the smaller sizes move at faster speed than the previous ones. This is dangerous for the player, as one hit will destroy his ship & lose him a life.
Finally, UFO's (shaped like flying saucers) will periodically appear. They come in 2 sizes: larger ones move slowly & fire in a random pattern, whereas smaller UFOs will attempt to actively hunt the player's ship. They will disappear if the player doesn't destroy them within c. 10 seconds.
Like the player, asteroids & UFO's will wrap around the screen.

Final view
Asteroids is a great game. It makes the player have to continually assess where his momentum will take him, what angle his shots must be at to hit that asteroid in relation to where it will be in 2 seconds & whether he will be able to thrust out of the way of the incoming shrapnel, or have to use hyperspace, or whether he can win a firefight with that damn small UFO -- in other words, the game is challenging without being unfair, and allows for continuous improvement.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Chess is a very deep strategy game -- in fact, it's been mathematically calculated that there are more possible chess games than there are atoms in the universe!
Now that the drama's outta the way...

Chess, in its current form, is played on an 8x8 grid, with squares alternating between black & white. Both players set up their pieces at the beginning of the game -- one row of pawns, the other with king, queen and 2 each of rook, knight & bishop.

Starting with white, players take turns moving one piece at a time in an attempt to capture their opponent's king, by means of positioning their own pieces into a position from which the king cannot escape. This requires deep strategy, involving sacrifice plays (allowing the opponent to capture a piece to gain an advantage for oneself), stalemate plays (protecting one piece with another to discourage capture) & forced-choice plays (positioning pieces so that the opponent must choose which piece he'd rather sacrifice). Due to white's first turn, he is usually in advantage, usually forcing the black player to play to a tie instead of a win.
Of course, new players (and those playing without good strategy) will just try to capture as many pieces as possible in the hopes of forcing the opponent to concede due to lack of force.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Chinese Checkers

Chinese Checkers is a very simplistic game of strategy.
The main board is laid out as a six-pointed star, with 10 holes in each corner, and holes laid out in the hexagonal middle area.
The aim of the game is to move all of one's own pieces (marbles or pegs) from one corner of the star to the opposite corner, while competing players attempt to do the same. Only one piece may be moved per turn, and only moved one hole at a time; however, playing the "hop across" rule variation, movement is helped by allowing jumping over adjacent pieces (in a straight line) to another empty space. Additionally, more than one jump per turn is permitted. This created strategy as good placement of pieces was vital to further either one's own piece, or hinder an opposing player's.
However, Chinese Checkers suffers from a critical flaw -- the dominating strategy is to NOT move one's own piece from the starting corner, and move pieces into the corners of all other players. Thus, since no player can completely capture any corner, play is brought to a stalemate.
As it is, Chinese Checkers has good ideas as regards strategy, and can even bring in some good teamplay between non-opposing players. However, with such a critical flaw in its core rules, it stands as a game which could have used more time developing its rules.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Overview: Stacks

This game is a simple game of strategic defense & offence, coupled with a little luck.
Best played between 4, Stack gives each player 14 6-sided dice, with 4 colours (1 colour each). The players roll the 56 dice into the playing area, then take turns stacking dice on top of other players'.
Only dice of the same number may be stacked; in addition, no stack may be more than 4 dice high (though it can contain any permutation of colours), and players may not stack on their own dice. Once any one player cannot move at the beginning of his turn, the round is over.
The scoring system lends this game depth -- since scores are face-value for 2-6, but not for a 1 (1 being 10 points), players usually try to get lots of points with 1, 4, 5 & 6. With 2 & 3, they usually roll the die to obtain a new (and hopefully higher) face-value.
Also, since no stack may be more than 4 dice high, strategy emerges in that players are reluctant to be the 3rd die on the stack -- in case another player has the same face-value die & claims the stack for the round. Only when there was no immediate danger of losing the stack would the player set the 3rd die. Then, other players had the option of continuing with their own scoring agenda, or they would roll one of their lower-value dice to attempt to claim the stack.
Another strategy that emerged was that of stacking on top of certain other players' dice, in order to stop them scoring or to end the round quicker (make them run out of dice).

Stack is a fun game, and its strategy is helped by a requirement for luck at times. It is very cut-throat, and all the better for it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Testing, testing

1, 2.
1, 2.
and a 1,2,3 4!!

And on that cheesy note I stop.
Articles on Chess, Stacks & Chinese checkers should be up within 10 days (assuming I don't forget about blogger...) Oh, and Jenga, too.

Kiki out