Category Archives: Mrs Brew

Sid Meier’s Pirates!

Sid Meier’s Pirates! Wii Review – 2010

Maritime piracy, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, consists of any unlawfulness committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship that is directed on the high seas against another ship or against persons or property on board another ship. In other words naughty, swash-buckling, thigh-slapping, rum-tankard-clanking fun.

Sid Meier originally released this title back in 1987 and has reincarnated it many times since. In this game the possibilities are endless and pretty much everything is customisable – from the era in which you play, to the figurehead on your boat. Every game is different and the only form of predetermined end is when your character has grown old and is too fragile and decrepit to continue running your fleet, so how the game pans out fully depends on your choices – you are the chief, boss and large cheese. You’ll need to flex your tactical and strategic thinking abilities in many ways, including choosing a marriage partner, deciding which products to trade and which ships to entice to battle.

You actually learn a little bit about history from this game too, as the different eras (that range from 1560 through to 1680 in twenty year instalments) alter the game drastically in that they provide different challenges as the political and economic situations shift through the times. You can find out how the Spanish, Dutch, French and English fared at different points in history in conquering the Caribbean islands, and then completely rewrite history as you work for your chosen nationality.

You are introduced to the game by an opening scene where you discover that your character (in my case Mr SquirrelFace) was once part of a newly prosperous family living in the beautiful Caribbean until one fateful evening when pirates burst in, rudely pillaged the house and enslaved your family members. You, however, luckily manage to escape and become a vagabond, roaming the streets searching for scraps and sleeping in the gutter. Until (eventually) ten years down the line you are a fully grown man and decide to take vengeance for your family. You sign up to a pirate outfit and start the search for your enemy the evil Marquis de la Montalban (the dude who stole your family away).

Once you have taken part in a mutiny on-board your ship and been elected as captain, you start sailing around the seas, visiting different ports and cities, conquering and trading at will. As soon as you select ‘attack’ on a passing vessel the screen goes into close-up combat mode and the cannon-ball lobbing commences. The balls do tend to have a mind of their own when in battle and the ship can get sluggish, so actually consistently striking your opponent isn’t very likely but this is a Wii game – it’s not going to be deadly accurate. But at least when your balls are missing the opponent and theirs are hitting you it doesn’t really matter as the health bars are so incredibly inaccurate that a cannon-full of balls can do a teensy bit of damage while one single one can nearly capsize you, so you can win pretty much every battle until you reach the harder difficulty levels.

If you are fighting a particularly cowardly ship and they try and sail away from you the battle is cancelled and you have to find someone else to pick on – fair enough, but there is a bug that when you are fighting a fleet, which you do ship by ship, the battle is cancelled when another ship in the fleet sails too far away from you – even though you’re fighting one right next to you. Personally I prefer ramming into the opposing ship and climbing aboard for some face-to-face action. You select your sword and then the fencing combat starts, or frantic remote wiggling as my play often boils down to. There are several little touches in this game that I really like, for instance you can dance with the ladies, try and pick the lock to get out of jail and when fencing you can grab the second controller and get your parrot to attack your foe by pecking them, flying around their heads and generally getting in the way. Heehee.

In the different ports and cities you can go into the local tavern and recruit more crew members, talk to the bar-wench or bartender about that days gossip and learn where the top ten pirates have been spotted, or talk to the mysterious stranger sitting in the corner who will try and flog you some interesting stuff even when you haven’t got enough gold. This is a good layout, but it has the drawback that the same tavern appears in each city, with the same tired characters just with different hair colours. One thing that did make me chortle was the new governor that I’d just appointed in one particular port said to me “Well I hear that you’ve elected a new governor in one of your ports”… yeah, you – you eijit.

I enjoyed this game. As with many games it has little foibles and laughable moments but I think that adds to it. It has good quests that are neither too hard nor too easy and I especially like the way you control what’s going on. I recently played a different game of a completely separate nature and it kept telling me what to do and what to click on and I got so frustrated! But Pirates! isn’t like that, you get to decide what goes on and that in my book is a major plus. So my opinion is this; Sid Meier’s Pirates! is a top-notch game if ever there was one, well worth the money and time. Arrr (sorry, I had to – come on, it’s a game about pirates).

Written by Mrs Brew

Hamlet

Hamlet Review – 2010

What do kittens, baby rabbits, lambs, puppies, nice little girls with bows in their hair, teddy bears, nice presents and Johnny Depp all have in common? They are cute. Cute cute cute. And that’s exactly how to describe Hamlet. I want to wrap this game up in a snuggly blanket, put it in my pocket, feed it jelly beans and hot chocolate all day long and repeatedly say “Nawwwww you’re so cute!” Everything about this game – the characters, the graphics, the music, the layout, the randomness, the characters (intentional duplication) and the puzzles – are so appealing and enjoyable, just like a jaunt through the sprinklers in lycra…if you like that kind of thing.

Hamlet is a short and sweet 2D point and Hamletclick adventure game with no additional inventories or options, just puzzle solving, or puzzle guessing as it sometimes comes down to. Despite being called Hamlet, it has as much in common with the Shakespearean masterpiece as Alice from Alice in Wonderland has in common with Alice Cooper. Not much, apart from character names. It makes an effort in describing small parts of the plot of Hamlet, intertwined with its own plotline, but nothing that will help you write essays on whether or not Hamlet avenges his mother more than his father. So I wouldn’t play it and expect it to get your kid through their English Lit. GCSE’s; you’ll need the actual Hamlet for that.

There are abstract games and then there’s the Hamlet game. I did find myself occasionally frustrated (but in a happy way) and at a complete loss of what to do so I would start to click all around the screen ‘til eventually a monkey or something dropped from the sky for me to fire a cannon ball at so I could continue. But I think that the ambiguity of this game really adds to its charm… and thankfully the makers have provided a clue button for when the charm is wearing thin. The mini catch is that you can only click the hint button once you’ve been on that level for a while, so you have to think about it for a minute or two before taking the easier way out.

Three things to remember when playing this game are to think outside the box, pay attention to details and don’t forget that the makers aren’t afraid to use really obscure red herrings such as random notes with supposed encrypted codes when the real answer is something incredibly blindingly obvious.

The graphics of this game are simple, cartoon style animations and the creators obviously liked very circular breasts…. The soundtrack is endearing but can get annoyingly repetitive when you’re slightly frustrated, so I was glad of an in-game volume control. As this game isn’t really one you can play over and over and still get the same amount of enjoyment out of, the average gamer will be done and dusted with this game in about 2 to 3 hours, so now that raises the question: “To buy or not to buy?” Don’t let the bad points that I’ve mentioned put you off buying this little gem of a game. It’ll make you smile and laugh for all the right reasons and is definitely justified in being value for your hard-earned cash.

Written by Mrs Brew

World Riddles - Animals

World Riddles: Animals Review – 2009

Newly formed Funny Bear Studio has created and released their debut title – their first step into the realm of gaming – World Riddles: Animals. This is a game heavily based on nonograms (aka ‘griddlers’ or ‘paint by numbers’) where a picture or pattern is hidden in a grid and the only clue as to its whereabouts are the numbers at the side and top, which state how many blocks are in that row or column and how they’re grouped together. Thus the image is uncovered by using logic and deduction. These puzzles can be extremely easy or difficult depending on the grid size – the biggest that I’ve encountered is 20×20; I struggled a bit. But all levels can be enjoyable and satisfying when they’re completed – especially the big’uns.

However the developer has seen fit to teamWorld Riddles - Animals a tricky form of puzzle with a somewhat childish world-wide tour to the different continents and their respective trademark animals. Wildlife and nonograms…whatever next?? It’s like trying to eat a chalk and cheese sandwich! The nonograms are interspersed with other kinds of puzzles such as ‘spot the difference’, ‘match the animal to the description’ and ‘rearrange the picture’ – all of which my three year old niece could do. So one minute your brain is close to self-combustion trying to decipher this monster of a nonogram, then the next minute you’re desperately trying to figure out which white-furred mammal lives in the Arctic out of the elephant, crocodile or polar bear.

Whilst there is a good range of easier, smaller grids and mammothly huge ones, there doesn’t seem to be any gradual progression from one extreme to the other. You can be sitting there feeling all smug at how you’ve just finished a small one in 2.4 seconds, then when the next one loads your smile can vanish in half the time as you search beseechingly for a starting point in a sea of unturned tiles.

Their website states that they ‘specialise in casual games for the whole family’. This may be a noble aim but realistically I shouldn’t think that a seven year old would be happy to get up from the computer to let Dad do a difficult one then clamber back on and back off two minutes later. Just as Dad wouldn’t want to be pestered by his kid to drop what he’s doing to play his kid’s game. The harder levels and the kiddyish layout of painted animals and cutesy music makes me think that Funny Bear Studio doesn’t know who its target audience is. Is it young anklebiters or their parents? Or indeed their big brothers and sisters?

In a number based 2D game there isn’t much room for amazing visuals but WRA does it’s best. It has nice little touches like globes spinning round and tiles smashing as you click them. The overall graphic effect isn’t exceptional but then it doesn’t really need to be, this is after all a 2D logic game. There’s some pleasing artwork of different countries in the background, just enough to stop it being bland. As I have already mentioned the music and accompanying sound effects are on the cheesy side but thankfully there are options for sound volume. It’ll take several hours to complete the game and perhaps re-runs to get solid golds, but it won’t keep you entertained for weeks on end.

Despite all of its foibles, this game is enjoyable and ridiculously addictive. It releases a little bit of pride in me every time I get three gold medals on a nonogram – which isn’t easy as one little mistake means you lose one. But is it really worth investing in this game when there are hundreds of free nonograms available online? It’s a case of cost versus progression. Having series of puzzles set out as in World Riddles definitely makes you strive to do well in each section as a set of gold medals add up to an overall gold. The feeling of completion and fulfilment does justify the price tag.

Written by Mrs Brew