In my family, when the weeks before Christmas begin to wind down and we’ve given our gift buying some thought, we usually stop to actually ask the person we’re buying for what they would like to receive. Some people have a clear idea of what they want and it’s just the job of one person to be the holder of their list. This way the ideas can be dispersed and gifts are not repeated. My mom keeps the list of things my little brother wants, I in turn keep the list for my mother, my sis in law for my older brother and my little brother keeps surprisingly good track of the movies that my aunt asks for. However, not everyone has a clear idea of what they want to get, so then there is usually someone who knows this person best and can recommend what to give them. Usually I’m the one who can give ideas of what to get for my sis in law, my aunt keeps general tab of what my grandmother may like and my mom can give ideas about me.
While I think my mother is the hardest one to buy for, it’s really only in the sense that it’s hard to come up with something original to please her. She’s usually very good at providing me with a list of ideas of things she’d like. However, when you don’t want to just give those things without some personal thought or when you end up giving all those ideas to other people to make the shopping experience easier, then she’s exceedinly difficult to buy for. Still, with every year that I “grow up” and am able to have more funds to purchase gifts for her, the better I have become at getting her some really nice things. This past Christmas I gave her a red Blackberry Curve phone and for Mother’s day I got her a hot pink iPod shuffle. Both, am happy to report, she delighted in receiving and she’s liking how she’s evolving into a more tech saavy person.
Meanwhile, the rest of my family believes that I’m the hardest to buy for because I never ask for anything and seem not to lack anything. But, at the same time, I like a lot of things but nothing enough to give a truly large and impressive gift. My mother says that it’s fine to give me a blow dryer or a curling iron but what is so impressive about that? Its gotten to the point that no one really ever asks me… perhaps only Dee still asks me but I know I’m impossible to buy for. Most years I truly draw a blank when asked for what I want.
When I asked for a Nintendo DS for Christmas, I think everyone was more than a little surprised; firstly because I never ask for anything and secondly because it something electronic/game related. I can’t explain really why I suddenly wanted it but I did. I kept waiting for someone to ask me what I wanted but no one did. It was getting dangerously close to the time my mother was leaving for her holiday vacation to Texas and I was able to insinuate the conversation by verifying what it was that she wanted. For her it was going to be easy since she and my lil bro would not be opening our gifts until she came back from Texas. This allowed me to get paid one more time and able to better budget things. And then I was able to turn the tables and sweetly ask why she hadn’t asked me what I wanted. “You never ask for anything! I think I know what I’m going to buy you but now that I know you want something, I’m open to hear suggestions.” She told me.So I told her that I wanted a pretty pink Nintendo DS. She was flabbergasted. This would be the first year I’d ever asked for something as serious as that and being such, how could she deny getting me it. So what she had planned to give me (a Blackberry, which she ended up giving me for my birthday) went on the back burner and it was pretty much assumed that I’d be getting my pink Nintendo DS, despite it being close to a month before Christmas and such things were quickly selling out. It was such a given in fact that my gay hubby gifted me with a DS game when he came to bake cookies with me. This was particularly funny since I didn’t have the system to play it with but it was only a matter of waiting 2 days for me to get it.
At the time that I asked for the DS, I really didn’t know much about the games. I sort of just had the idea that I’d play Brain Age or something on it. I’d been seeing a lot of commercials for the DS and I think their ploy to appeal to female gamers really worked. With only one game system to buy for (my gay posse and my lil bro all have several systems with a handful of games for each one), I try to make it a habit of acquiring a new game every month and for the most part that has been working out fairly well.
With all that said, now I will go about reviewing the games I have. Granted, I’m not a professional. Heck, I might not even have completed all of the games I’m about to review, neither did I use any sort of cheat codes to gain extra things. I’m just opinionated and like to be honest. Some of you may care, some of you might not… but it might just help you next time you’re in the game aisle wondering what exactly to get amongst the multitude of titles that appear before you!
- Diner Dash (PlayFirst): This was the first game that I got, even before I had somewhere to play it on. I had both parts one and two on my cell phone and I suppose it was for that reason that my gay hubby believed that I would like it for the DS. I find the game highly entertaining because it’s pretty engrossing and can get rather fast paced. The object of the game is to help Flo work the tables by seating, taking orders, providing food- sometimes even drinks, appetizers and desserts-, giving the bill and clearing out the tables so that she can get enough money to get her own place. You have to do these things quickly and you gain bonuses (ie: higher tips) for color matching, stacking repeated actions and keeping people happy. There are even different types of customers so that you learn how to manage seating since each one takes a different amount of time eating and not everyone can be seated next to one another depending on their noise level. You also decorate each restaurant as you like with a few basic options and you get to dress Flo with a new outfit she gains after completing a restaurant.
Final Review: I have yet to finish this game to the end but I do enjoy Diner Dash. Its a fun way to pass the time and the best part is that the levels get saved and you can always just pick it up whenever you like just right where you left off. There is even the option to play continuous service, so even if you’ve done all the levels you can just return for kicks.
The Quest Trio (Activision): If anyone has spent hours playing JewelQuest online, than you’ll definitely love this trio game. Not only does it have the funny little jewel board you have to switch around, but there is Jewel Solitaire and Jewel MahJong. If you play them quests in the order I have just mentioned, then you will get this amazing story of adventure and romance, which for some reason get moved along by you playing out these puzzles. But, for those of you who do not know anything about this particular games, lemme give a quick rundown.
- JewelQuest: Different colored jewels fall into a grid which vary in shape. When you match 3 or more in either a vertical or horizontal line, the panel behind it gets a color change and the jewels disappear, dropping down the ones above it and refilling the board. The object is to match so that the entire panel gets changed to the right color before time runs out. Sometimes a single matching will do the trick but later on, you need to match it at least twice to gain this objective. Other times there are jewels that are buried and you need to match them first to uncover them and still other times there are bombs in your way that, if matched, they take away the gold of the background, making you have to rematch on those squares. There is even the little deal with the gold coins that, if matched, give you like a gold coin counter. What took me MANY levels to learn was that if you find yourself unable to match a square or two and time is running out, all you need to is touch the coin counter and it will transform those random squares for you.
- Jewel Solitaire: By far this is my favorite one. This one is played with cards and they come in the full assortment of numbers and different jewel/color combinations. The point of it is to clear out the cards on the board by dropping them down into your main pile in either ascending or descending order. You can go up and down, play wild cards or draw from your deck to help you along. There is no timing to this but do it wrong and you’ll be out of cards in your deck and unable to match the cards to clear the board. As the game progresses, the card layout become more complex and intricate, but you also gain interesting wild cards that allow you such things as playing duplicates by stacking them together, creating other piles or peeking at the top card of the deck. If you play this in quest mode, then you get to play both a card layout and a jewel board. How well you manage to pattern the cards is how well laid out you have the jewels, plus it decides just how many moves you can make to change your board colors.
- Jewel Mahjong: This is the game that I play the least, so I’m not really sure what the whole quest angle is about. Mostly it’s like most of the tile matching games with some added prophesies, balloons and even bombs breaking up walls. The effects are rather pretty but I like the number game more than the tile matching.
Final Review: I suppose that each game on its own can be rather entertaining but this game has all 3! So I like how you can cohesively play the whole story.
- Syberia (DreamCatcher): This was also part of my holiday haul and I have to same the most random game gift. I’d never heard of this game and since I’ve gotten it, I’ve still not heard of it. Its supposed to be one of those games where you play this character who wanders about town, finding clues and solving these mechanical puzzles. You end up in Syberia in hopes of finding the heir of some company that you are hoping to acquire for the company you work for. The scenes are rather lovely, but I have to say that it’s rather confusing. There seems to be a certain order to things and if you don’t do them exactly right or touch something in just the right minute spot then it won’t work or make any sense.
Final Review: I’m sure the game could be fun for other people, but it doesn’t seem to be the right sort of game for me. Perhaps I don’t have the patience but it seems to take forever to talk to people and even more time to accomplish or learn anything. Even from what I’ve read about the game online there doesn’t seem to be much that recommends playing it.
- Brain Buster: Puzzle Pack (Agetec.): My mother got me this game for Christmas. I have to say that I’m not a big fan of the games that are on it. It’s supposed to be about 5 games, Sudoku being one of them. I’m not a fan of Sudoku enough to really play this game much and I think the other 4 games on this bundle game are so obscure that they have gone and escaped me as to what their names are.
Final Review: I’m sure my mother meant well because I think she thought that I enjoyed playing Sudoku like everyone else in the family seems to. I really don’t though and I feel like it might be lost on me. The visuals are rather basic and the grids not that interesting. It turns out she gave it to both my sis in law and myself, as long with the next game, as a grand joke of her’s… so that each of us could have someone to talk to about the games.
- Cooking Mama2: Dinner with Friends: When it comes to this game, you either love it or you hate it. The premise of it is that you are letting Mama teach you some recipes. Each step of the process can be chopping, stirring, adding things in order, cooking/baking/grilling and so on and so forth in a series of screen taps and strokes of the stylus. It really makes good use of the second screen touch pad. You really need to have some finesse with it. So, you practice and learn techniques and then later try them all on your own to impress some judges to win some prizes. The food you try to make is truly international cuisine. Do them right and you get Mama’s praise. Do it wrong and you will get the evil glare that is Mama’s wrath. There is also the neat function that you can change out the appearance of Mama and of the cooking items that you use, like the knife handles or the cutting board colors. There are something like… 70 recipes for you to “learn” to make and you can retry them all to be sure that you gain gold medals (perfect score) in all. Not to mention that if gives you the ability to practice the steps as many times as you like until you feel confident that you can pass them.
Final Review: I hated this game so much when I first began to play it. When you play a game, you want to feel rather brilliant passing the levels, but if you don’t know the right squiggle techniques with the stylus or what the signal on the screen is to indicate done-ness, you sort of have to wing it and hope Mama doesn’t get mad at you. Once you get the right techniques down (and these I learned by comparing notes with my sis in law about how to do them), I found that I actually enjoyed the game. Funny how so many people can hear the little music and recognize the game now! I had a cook at Denny’s suddenly stop and emphatically proclaim how much she hated cooking with Mama! While it was strange to hear her initial outburst, in the end it amused me. Your enjoyment is based entirely on your ability to master all the touch screen techniques necessary. While you can’t actually learn a recipe, it does give you an idea on how certain things get made which can be fun too.
- Brain Age2: This was the first game I bought for myself. I had played the first Brain Age game on Dee’s DS over the summer and had thought it fun enough. Its a fun way to spend about 10-15min of every day to go through different games that are supposed to improve your memory and brain function. there are some days you will be faster than others and sometimes your competitive edge will get you to try and beat out your previous day’s score. Over all, I think I would keep trying to improve my numbers constantly if it weren’t for the fact that it only takes one record per day per game. There are such things like date memory, sign selection, word scramble, piano, number race, block count, et al. You can play any alternation of 3 per day, which is the recommended amount that you should play. Then there is a special test that gives you three random skills test, either verbal or non-verbal, to determine what your mental age is. The age of 20 is supposedly the best age you can be, but I never aimed for it. Really I just tried aim for my own age when it came to the test. There was the very cool rock-paper-scissors game but you could only play it with the microphone while testing your brain age.
Final Review: Its easy to begin the habit but I guess my memory did not improve enough for me to remember to do it every single day for extended periods of time. The Doctor makes me feel bad for not having seen him in some time. You do better with your scores if you do them later in the day because you’ve given yourself time for your brain to really warm up and be at optimum performance rating. A lot of the things are timed, so I find it hard to do them while I’m working. This did affect my numbers for a while. Over all I have to say I liked most of the little 2min games. When it came to using the microphone, it seems I just could not get the hang of it. It would not recognize my word and it would cost me time. This did not gratify me in any way. Overall its a good game to have if you want to do a little something everyday. Its also a cool way for you to realize what your strengths are, whether it be in memorizing/recognizing numbers or letters/words.
- CakeMania: I bought this game for myself. I had played it online through MSN games. It has the whole order sequencing thing that Diner Dash has. Your character is trying to bake cakes to buy back her grandparent’s bakery from some Mega-Mart conglomerate. So you take orders and then bake the cakes to order. You have to do them quickly and learn to mutli-task since you need to bake, frost and decorate cakes, later you stack them, all before the client gets too terribly impatient and not pay you the complete amount. And you actually do need to make as much money as possible per round on this one because you actually use it to buy things for your bakery. You need more than one oven and frosting station and you want to get it working as fast as possible. You can upgrade your shoes, the ovens, the frosting, the cupcake oven, get a cake stand or a tv and buy all sorts of cake toppers to go with all occasions. There are different sort of clients as well with different tastes when it comes to selecting cake shapes and decorations and are equally as varied when it comes to their degree of patience. There are even seasonal characters as well, but most of those seem just like grumpy-pusses. Seriously, cupid should make the customers fall in love, not get all hissy-fit because the cake is taking too long. Don’t even get me started about the Easter Bunny. Seriously, he should have been cute and cuddly, not like some sweaty, disgruntled, fat man shoved in a pink costume.
Final Review: On a whole I find the game vastly entertaining. You can save the same game on different tracks so that way you can backtrack should you have purchased the wrong upgrade. In the end, as much as I like the game, once you complete the levels, there isn’t much else to do. There is a bonus CakeMania 2 part to it, but its really just more of the same but at different locations.
- Professor Leyton and the Curious Village: I was given this recommendation from the Panda before we broke up. He’d sweetly taken an hour of his time to research a possible game recommendation for me. I’m apparently a rather picky puzzle/strategy gamer. After he’d recommended it was when all the commercials for it started coming out. When I got it for myself for my birthday, it was a relatively new game and I didn’t have a real clue as to what it was all about. But the general premise of the game is that you go along with Professor Leyton and his assistant to the Curious Village. Professor Leyton is not a detective, just a master puzzle solver. So he arrives to this mysterious village in the hunt to the answer of the golden apple. Along the way you have to solve puzzles in order to get info, get objects or just plain go ahead. The puzzles vary from everything from mathematical, logical, optical, mazes and jigsaw. So it really depends on what your forte is as to how well you do on this. With each puzzle solved from the various curious villagers you get paid in picarats. What the real point of this money system is, I’m not sure. Along this the main mystery, there are also little side quests as well as bonus puzzles unlocked if you complete them… such as complete the gadgets, the jigsaw painting or furnishing the rooms.
Final Review: I have to say that this game delighted me to no end. I loved solving the puzzles and wandering the village. The designs were just cute and Professor Leyton an absolute gentleman. There were certain puzzles that I had to go off and find the solutions for. But that doesn’t detract from the general fun of the game. I did not manage to unluck all the puzzles and the absolute end of the storyline was so enchanting that I’m absolutely looking forward to the next installment in the Professor Leyton series. I will likely play this game again once I’ve let my memory forget some of the answers to the puzzles, otherwise I don’t know if the game is worth keeping once you’ve completed the storyline.
- Hell’s Kitchen (Ubisoft): This was a birthday present from my gay hubby and I knew that the game had come out but I had had no clue that it had come out for the DS. Based on the series, Gordon Ramsey (whom I absolutely adore and would love to just be able to stare into his hunky eyes and share a gloriously elegant meal with) is trying to get you to run his restaurant. It has the same Diner Dash concept that you have to seat customers, take their orders and serve them but it has the Cooking Mama concept of having to time and prepare the food. Its not as complicated as cooking mama, mainly because the ingredients are generalized and all you have to do is tap them and get them cooking in the right combination and order for them to be perfectly done and on time. The funniest part is that Chef Ramsey is standing at the top screen giving you insults or compliments based on your performance. Angry customers will make the flames grow and give you a lower score rating. Served perfectly, the flames will go down and you can advance to the next levels. It does take some practice to get the whole timing thing right but once you do it’s really quite easy to get it all together.
Final Review: I adore Chef Ramsey and I was watching that season of Hell’s Kitchen when it came out. The levels are fairly easy to beat overall, but darn hard to do if you go back and try to beat each one at 100%. The best part of this game is that there are actual recipes from Gordon Ramsey on there. Unlike Cooking Mama, the recipe book is actually useful and there are quite a few dishes on there that I would love to try. There is this added feature of being able to just do continuous service in the kitchen and it can get bloody hard! I’m still trying to get above 37pts and have been unable to. So this is what has me keeping the game around.
- My French/Japanese Coach (Ubisoft): These are actually two games and not a coach to teach you to speak Japanese from French or vice versa. I had heard from my friend Benji that the French coach was a lot of fun. I do know some French so on the diagnostic test I got a 48/50 but the Japanese one I got like a 7/50 but I think I got that many because I managed to get a few lucky guesses. When you get two in a row wrong then the diagnostic test is over. I only began the Japanese one but then I realized I should probably practice one language at a time. Both games are essentially the same, you have this lovely and nice coach/sensei to go through the lessons with you. You start with the basics and learning levels, from infants through the grades and onward. The games are things like whack-a-word, memory, bridge building, matching, mutiple choice and word search. The difference is that Japanese has an added element of learning how to write the characters as well.
Final Review: The games are very neat. There is this option to record your voice and compare it to the recording of just how to say it. They really make you drill the repetitions until you get it right. They should be played with headphones so that way you catch the full nuances of the language. Overall, you do as well as the practice you put into it.