Alice and the Magic Garden

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Alawar is one of the world’s leading casual game developers and their new game is a double edged Match-3 that is as addictive as it is gorgeous.

This Match -3 game has you matching coloured blocks in 3′s to open the locker and reveal fruit – which you then need to match to achieve your goals for the level. All sounds pretty simple until you add the worms, spiders and consider the fact that you can’t switch open lockers with unopened lockers.

The gameboard is full colour complete with fairies, trees and butterflies to capture the attention of even the youngest of gamers.

Match-3 really is a game of strategy, it has a very random look to it but if you treat this one randomly you are sure to get caught with unlocked lockers in the most inconvenient positions.

Alice is a servant in the castle of a king, leading an uninteresting life until the day a fairy called Luna pops in to ask for Alice’s assistance in freeing all the fairies fruit that has been locked up by an evil sorceress, in return Alice will be awarded a beautiful garden of her own that she can decorate however she pleases.

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Spiders will weave their web over your locker which will trap the fruit until you unlock the brooms with which to brush away the web. There are keys you can collect to unlock those pesky lockers that remain closed in the middle of a sea of fruit, and bug spray… ahh the joys of bug spray – be sure to use it wisely to get rid of the annoying spiders and worms.

The worms, I didn’t tell you about the wiggly worms, they will eat your fruit and you can’t make a match with an apple core or a banana peel. The worms will sneak in from the sides and you can spray them, or you can make a match behind them and the shaking of the lockers sometimes shakes them free.

Bug Spray can be really useful if you time it right! A well aimed spray can knock off multiple pests if they are in range.

Each level will see you unlock a new item for Alice’s Garden so in between levels if you would like a break from the action of matching vibrant fruits you can go shopping to beautify Alice’s garden and create a perfect little sanctuary to share with young Alice.

To assist with clearing out the gameboard and achieving the current levels goals you can also utilise the hammer and the fruit blaster. The fruit blaster is AMAZING for creating chain reactions and you can just sit back and watch as fruit matches fruit matches fruit creating chain reactions and explosions to get you through the level before you know it.

This is an eye-catching, brain-engaging match-3 game that is all about the strategy because you need to make sure that the match you make isn’t going to catch you in a trap that stops you making other matches.

This gorgeous game contains 100 levels over 5 different stages and fighting 5 bosses all as you decorate Alice’s very own fairy garden.

To download your FREE 60 minute trial: www.alawar.com/game/alice-and-the-magic-gardens

Peggle

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This PopCap game has got me hooked. It is like a retro combination of a pinball game and Breakout and it has got me chained to the mouse. I go in to play a level or two to get a feel, get some inspiration for what to write and next thing you know the clock has jumped forward.

If I had to list the number of ways this game grabbed me it would be quite a long list but it all started with the cartoon unicorn that greeted me on opening the game. Anyone that knows me knows the game had me at the unicorn.

Peggle is set up almost like a pinball machine with your chute of balls down the left hand side, they shoot out at the top centre of screen and you need to direct their bounce to hit as many of the pegs distributed across the gameboard as possible.

The blue pegs are there to help make the pattern.
The orange pegs are the ones you need to clear to successfully pass the level.
The green pegs (there are 2 per level) give you a special power that coincides with the cartoon Peggle master controlling the launcher.
The purple pegs multiply your score.

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Each level provides you with a set number of balls which can be increased if you catch the ball in the bucket before it falls off screen or if you achieve a high score with an individual ball.

The adventure mode is made up of 55 levels that become increasingly challenging, every 5th level or so you unlock a new Peggle master who will oversee your game and bring a special power to help you through, they will also often impart a piece of wisdom before the level begins.

If Adventure mode doesn’t do it for you then there’s Quick Play which will let you jump to any level that you have previously unlocked. If you can’t decide what you want to play there is a random option that will throw up levels you have unlocked in any order, and you can play as any Peggle master so the power you use isn’t necessarily the one you had to unlock the level.

Duel gives you a 2 player option where you can play a friend or take on the computer, in any level you have unlocked playing Adventure mode. You also have the Random option in this mode. There are only 6 balls per player in Duel and catching your ball gives a bonus but no free ball. Both players are using the same game board so it can be quite annoying if the other player gets the good pegs.

The last mode is Challenge, this is an extra 75 Grand Master Challenges which are unlocked at the end of Adventure mode.

There is a lot to be said for the addictive nature of this game. It all comes down to the luck of the bounce really, but that doesn’t mean there’s no skill involved. If you can work out the precise angle from which to strike…

It is bright and vividly coloured which means it’s extremely eye-catching for the younger players, my Miss 8 became rather entranced with just standing watching. It really is a great game for all ages because there is nothing that could be suggestive or offensive. It’s fun and it’s a FABULOUS tool of procrastination, I’m just lucky I got to call it work. Definitely a game I put off coming to write about so that I could continue playing it.

Great for calming stress relief, I think I will come back to it for an end of evening wind down on a regular basis.

To download your FREE 60 minute trial: Peggle Deluxe

Plants vs. Zombies

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PopCap Games you sure know how to twist my arm and make me stay!

I popped on to play a few rounds and get a bit more of a feel before I came to tell you about the game and what do you know, there goes my early night and all the work I had planned. Ahh, it really is hard when I can spend my night playing PC games and then turn around and call it work.

So, you’ve all heard that I love my vampires and I am missing them desperately at the moment (if you’ve read any of my other reviews you would) so spending an evening with brain eating zombies seemed like an endeavour that would scratch my horror itch.

Not sure about the scares but it certainly kept me amused.

The Plants vs. Zombies page over at PopCam boasts that the PC version of this game has 50 Adventure levels. Now I don’t know proper gaming terminology but I think it’s more time management than adventure. Yes, the scenery and the game board change which to an extent means the objective changes but it’s still a matter of making sure that you have your plants properly placed, you’re making sunshine and you’re using the right weapons because if you’re not ‘The Zombies Ate Your Brains!’ will be splashed across your screen in big green letters.

plants vs zombies

There is definitely challenge, and I am certainly addicted. If nothing else I wanted to see what whacky zombie would get the munchies for my brains in the next level, and what worthy weapon I would get to plant against them.

The imagination inherent in the characters of this game were enough to keep me involved, even though night-time gardening is extremely hard work with no sun – it’s no wonder I felt a little zombified at work today because the zombies had a fair feast on my brains last night.

The colours are vivid and the zombies are fantastic. The night time levels are richly coloured but understandably not what you’d call vibrant.

I love that you can turn full screen off and play in a game window because it is too isolating, and easy to lose HOURS and hours when playing full screen.

There are 26 types of zombies from a Simpson-esque Disco Stu (who drags in back-up dancers at the click of a finger) to well padded football players and everything in between, all of whom will go head to head against the 49 perilous plants. We have tiny little mushies to massive black bomb-shrooms, pea shooters and cherry bombs.

In addition to the 50 Adventure levels there are 20 mini games which you can unlock as you play through adventure mode. Along the way you will also unlock Puzzle and Survival modes as you collect the 20 new Achievements.

But that’s not all, you can even create your own Zombatar! There are fully customisable choices to make your very own zombie which will save on your desktop for your use wherever really… I wonder if my Zombatar would make a good Avatar on all my sites, what do you think? The funny thing I did find about my Zombatar was that she popped up in the very next level I played.

This is a game to entertain with a giggle for the strategist. Not necessarily heavy thinking strategy but definitely requires some forethought. A lovely way to spend a quiet evening at home!

Plants vs. Zombies is available for a long list of platforms as well as online and Facebook, head over to the website to check them all out.

To download your FREE 60-minute trial: Plants vs. Zombies Game

Film Fatale: Lights, Camera, Madness!

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Film Fatale is a Fugazo recent release Hidden Object game that is reminiscent of the early film industry. Understandably, as the aim of the game is to rescue your mother, screen siren Rita Ray, from the clutches of deranged director M.W. Vernon.

At the height of his career, and his brilliance, Vernon built an island studio which drifted into obscurity with his spiral into madness. The film he was going to make there was supposed to be the best ever made, but it was never finished. Now Rita Ray is missing and her daughter Helena has been brought to the island to search for her.

The game is played as Helena, searching Vernon’s island for clues to Rita Ray’s whereabouts.

Suitably spooky soundtrack beautifully complements the fully voiced characters, all of whose voices match their characters well.

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The graphics are not spectacular but they are reminiscent of the era being portrayed. The hidden object scenes are hinted at by a glimmer of light that is much more subtle than the swirly fog in a lot of HOG. They are not the most challenging that I have played but they aren’t the easiest either. Everything about this game is atmospheric, the soundtrack, the voice overs and the graphics transport you to the 50′s movie studio and the hidden object scenes could be cast aside storage boxes on a movie set.

The thing that really annoys me about HOG is that you are forever backtracking, retracing your steps to find the projector you needed film for, the door you needed a lock for  etc.  I would much rather pick something up that I may need later and end up with items I didn’t use than go searching for an item I discovered a use for and have to go back to use it. The folks at Fugazo must have heard my curses because Film Fatale has a fabulous item you can pick up which allows you to jump to areas of the map so after you pick it up you can open your map, see where you need to go and one click and you’re there – I LOVE IT!

To help you keep track of your progress there is a journal that records all the important clues and the map which tells you where you are, and where you need to go next.

Part spooky suspense, part spoof this is an amusing and entertaining afternoons work. The in-game timer said that it took me a little over 2 hours to complete so it’s not really a very long game. It’s not for the serious, experienced Hidden Object aficionado – the lack of challenge and short completion time could leave them unsatisfied. But for those a little greener this fun little horror film related HOG is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.

Explore an entire island studio and test your observation skills at mini games and hidden object scenes and see if you can outsmart the director before you become an extra in the climactic, disastrous final scene.

Download the FREE trial: Film Fatale: Lights, Camera, Madness! Game

New Yankee In King Arthur’s Court

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The power of lightning has always been awe inspiring, and New Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is no exception. A freak lightning strike transports a poor farmer from his fields to the company of a King, a very well known king who sends him to embark on a quest.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to work through the 40 time management levels and successfully complete the challenges set for you.

There are crops to grow, gold to mine, goblins to chase off, spells to cast and trees to chop. Oh and you can’t forget the prisoners to free.

Alawar are a leader in casual gaming and they have done it again. This time management game is great for the casual gamer and it’s not too intensive. Great little escape from the daily grind.

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The levels are actually confined to the one screen which surprised me a little with this game, these are outdoor scenes that are base camp sized and they all fit into the one screen. This works for me because I really don’t like not being able to see what is lurking just past the edge of screen.

The task sequence that you can queue seems to be quite impressive, I couldn’t give you an exact number but it certainly seemed to be a few – it would probably depend on how many workers you have running around helping out at the time.

There are 40 levels traversing what may be the British Isles, and set over 4 locations.

To help you on your quest there are 8 different buildings that you will need to erect to help get you through the levels and 6 spells. Be sure to make the most of your spells because they can mean the difference between making the level or not!

On-screen hints come in the form of a sometimes witty conversation between our newly transplanted farmer and Merlin, one of the Royal Advisors. They give some friendly instruction as to the best way to approach a level, and in some cases a little giggle as well.

But watch out because it’s not just the goblins coming to steal gold and kidnap your workforce, there are also animated skeletons scaring the workers and affecting their work as well as some mad thing that just raced across my screen and destroyed my watchtower but it was there and gone before I even got a good look so I can’t even tell you what it was.

Come on over and check out how a new age farmer organises a quest, with you at the helm.

Download the FREE trial: New Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Bejeweled 3

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This past weekend I got to spend some time playing PopCap games for something different and what a blast I had.

Time just ran away with me, what was supposed to be a quick couple of round time-out became two hours lost in the jeweled world of Bejeweled 3.

Lovers of Match 3 games will not be disappointed. This classic Match 3 game is bright, vivid and packed with plenty of ways to play.

There are eight game play modes, four of which you need to unlock by playing the other game modes. This means that whatever your mood there is a Bejeweled to suit.

I like Zen, the endless game means there’s no pressure and you don’t have to rush your way through. You can watch for the perfect move and perfect your strategy without worrying about the clock. The levels still progress.

There are also Classic, Lightning and Quest modes. Quest sees you fulfilling particular missions in each level as you progress, Lightning is a timed mode that allows you to collect time bonus gems to increase your round timer. Classic is exactly what it says, an untimed mode that sees you moving up through the rounds.

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As you reach a certain point of these modes you will unlock Poker, Butterflies, Ice Storm and Diamond Mine. These will add variety and excitement to your Match 3 experience, offering ways to play that are new and have your mind working in different ways.

Butterflies sees you trying to free the trapped butterflies before the spiders have a chance to eat them. Ice Storm will have you racing the pillars of ice to match gems and drop the pillars. In Diamond Mine you need to match gems to dig through the dirt and unearth buried treasure.

Poker, now that was fun. You need to match your gems in poker hands which will see you trying desperately to keep at the fore front of your mind two different sets of instructions. You aren’t just matching your colours anymore, now you need to make sure you get your hand filled too otherwise the skulls will decide your fate with the flip of a coin.

This is a game that is extremely easy to become addicted to and all lovers of Match 3 entertainment need to check this out. Compete for achievement badges and see if you can collect them all!

Head on over to PopCap Games at  to download your FREE 60-minute Trial of Bejeweled 3

Behind The Reflection 2: Witch’s Revenge

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Alawar have done something a little different with their new Hidden object puzzle adventure game Behind The Reflection 2: Witch’s Revenge.

There is still the spooky music, dark and creepy settings and supernatural theme this is one that takes a different approach. Part of me wants to say that this would be perfect for the beginner at HOG, or the younger adventurer but I’m not sure that I’d let the younger ones play with all the witches, skeletons and soul stealing.

The sequel to last year’s hit Behind The Reflection sees a mother once again separated from her son by an evil sorceress and you have to help her search through five settings to track down the witch and save her son.

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I’m not sure about the original but I can tell you the Behind The Reflection 2: The Witch’s Revenge embraces a totally new approach to the hidden object genre, well totally new to me anyway. Throughout the locations this game will give you a block of pictures to find instead of a list of objects. You know exactly what you are looking for which can be quite helpful, especially as some one word descriptions can be ambiguous. This way you can see what you need to find with no confusion, as you find an item you drag it onto its coutnerpart and it lights up.

Don’t be fooled that this will make the game too much easier because it certainly doesn’t. And there are still traditional hidden object locations that will give you the list.

The soundtrack is suitably spooky and the sound effects are realistic – the creaky chandeliers were making my skin crawl. The graphics are sophicticated and the story plays out nicely on screen without too much disruption from the cut-to scenes.

The key features of the game:

  • Five settings
  • 36 locations
  • Over 45 mini-games
  • More than 20 hidden object scenes
  • Interactive help

The puzzles are challenging, the hidden object scenes are great at  hiding things in plain sight and the new way of using picture prompts to tell you what you’re looking for made the game new again, got the brain changing gear more often to go from visual clues to written clues.

Have fun with it, but don’t lose track of time too badly. That’s my only issue with full screen games, I can no longer see the clock at the bottom of my screen. So on that note, good night.

Download the FREE trial: Behind The Reflection 2: Witch’s Revenge

PREVIEW: Vampire Saga: Break Out

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As some of you may be aware Vampires are my genre; be it books, movies or TV shows if it’s got vampires you can count me in (even if I do then discover that Playboy vampire movies aren’t really so much about the vampires, but that’s a whole other story). I even tracked down the Vampire Weekend album, just because they were called Vampire Weekend.

vampire saga

Those of you who follow my book reviews may also know that vampires have been a little scarce lately in my reading pile, and I don’t have time to be watching them. So you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to preview Vampire Saga: Break Out! I weighed up whether I had the time for playing games tonight and decided that for vampires, I could make time!

And that’s exactly what I did!

I didn’t get to play the whole game, which is probably not a bad thing or I never would have finished, but I played enough to get hooked.

This game takes place in the town of Hill Lock where you play the  role of Dr Crow, who has been summoned to perform an autopsy on a disfigured corpse discovered in the local mine. Your job is to steer the good doctor through many creepy locations on the run from terrifying creatures of the night that are often seen as inky black shadows.

Hidden object scenes abound, and they are of the visual variety. In this game the hidden object scenes require you to find multiples which was something new to me. They are also scenes that need to be revisited, each time the scene seems to be exactly the same and it’s just slightly different objects you need to find.

This is the third installment of the Vampire Saga, though the first I have come across so I can’t compare it to the early games. I can just tell you that I came, I played, I was a little disappointed when I finished the preview because I hadn’t had enough yet.

vampire saga

Complete with animated story scenes, a tutorial and a handy hint function you are sure to be able to get through any area that has you stumped. And there is a journal at the bottom of the screen to capture all of the important information, ensuring that you have all the info you need at  your fingertips.

The graphics were dark, which is to be expected with a vampire hidden object game, but I do find it makes it difficult to see into all the corners of a hidden object scene.

I enjoyed playing this preview, and I am looking forward to the game’s release on the 8th of March. That could just be the vampires but I think there’s more to it than that. I am intrigued to discover how the good doctors daughter fits into the storyline, and whether or not they can find a cure.

 

Dark Strokes: Sins of The Fathers Collector’s Edition

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The dark and spooky hidden object game I’ve been playing this week is Dark Strokes: Sins of The Fathers Collector’s Edition.

Remembering that I am still reasonably new to the whole PC game experience, it catches me out at times that all the hidden object games I have played are so dark and creepy – until I realise that’s probably the best environment for a hidden object game.

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If it’s spooky you want then this supernatural adventure game will keep you guessing. I actually decided to follow the story completely this time round and I had my predictions at the beginning about how it would all turn out. And I was totally wrong, I couldn’t believe it.

There is a bit of step retracing in this game but not enough that it really started to irritate me. It’s usually only one or two locations earlier that you need to return to with extra tools to retrieve something.

Throughout the game you collect figurines which have to be placed in a nativity type box, each time you place a figurine in the box you are shown another piece of the larger mystery.

Ethan and Clair– are forced to postpone their wedding to pay a visit to Ethan’s father, unfortunately that’s just the beginning of their run of bad luck as Clair is kidnapped by one of the ‘Faceless Ones’ from the train. Ethan sets off in hot pursuit, desperate to find his lovely lady and rescue her.

Give chase through the rundown town, following clues and picking up useful inventory items along the way, eyes forever pealed and squinting into the darkest corners.

Alawar are extremely good at finding inventive ways to hide objects in plain sight making the hidden object locations quite the challenge.

I followed this game right through to its conclusion because I found myself so hooked that before I knew it we were done, which was a nice surprise. The best bit about that is that I have opened up the bonus chapters and have more of the story to discover.

Key features:

  • 58 locations
  • 16 mini-games
  • 20 hidden object scenes
  • Step-by-step walkthrough
  • Concept art and desktop wallpapers

If you like a supernatural challenge and to test your observational skills then this is definitely the game for you. Supernatural themes, the fear of the unknown and a desperate need to track down the lover he so desperately wants to marry motivate Ethan to track down all of the missing items that will help his progress. Follow the clues to a conclusion that will surprise you.

Have fun with this one, I know I did.

Download the FREE trial: Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers Collector’s Edition

GAME REVIEW: Spooky Mall

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Ghosts, vampires and the headless horseman all keep the same hours I do so perhaps it is appropriate that I am up until after midnight playing Spooky Mall, Alawar Entertainments brand new Time Management game. It makes it more realistic that I’m playing the game at the same time of day as the game takes place!

You play the friendly, efficient manager of a spooky mall that caters to all of the supernatural beings of the area. Being supernatural they keep different hours to everyone else so as the world goes to bed you race on down to the mall and run 5 different stores filled with all the yummy treats the ghosts and ghouls are craving.

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Each level you play earns you cash to upgrade your store, making it much easier to keep your customers happy. Some of your customers will give you bonuses if they leave the store happy so it’s great when someone makes EVERYONE happier, or fills all your displays but you certainly can’t complain if someone makes your store sparkling clean or gives you cash.

Not everyone is out to reward you for good service though, there are some who will do their best to steal from you so you need to keep your eyes pealed and catch the thieves before they can get away with the goods. Napoleon may stop in and if he gets a wind up and starts making a speech all your shoppers will stop to listen.

I can’t tell you about the superb sound effects, because I haven’t listened to them but I can tell you that the graphics are sensational.

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The game features 100 levels split over 5 stores which means you have 20 levels to play for each store. The stores open one at a time which made me think I would have to complete the entire game before I could come tell you anything but fortunately for me, and everyone else who likes a little variety in their life, each new store opens as you get to Level 13 of the store before. At that point you can continue in the store you are playing or move on to start the next store, or you can mix it up and go in and play each store as you feel inclined.

There are upgrades to buy at the beginning of each level to make your life easier, just be careful to watch and see what you need the most because it is rather annoying to choose an upgrade only to discover that it was the last one you couldn’t afford that is the only one you use.

The only issue I am having with Spooky Mall, aside from remembering to turn it off because I need to sleep, is that it loads slowly but that could be because my poor computer can’t cope anymore.

7 bonuses are also hidden within these stores but I haven’t found them yet so best keep an eye out.

The more I think about it the more I think it is relevant to say that there seems to be a long string of actions you can program in advance. I think one of the other games I did you could ‘book in’ about 5 moves in advance but Spooky Mall will take at least 9.

Spooky Mall will grab you hook line and sinker if you are a lover of time management. If nothing else, check it out for the great graphics and bumbling headless horseman.

You can download the FREE trial: Spooky Mall