Give it a few hours


Have I ever mentioned that I’ve played adventure games since the first King’s Quests? I’ve literally played every single one of them that was worth playing. Heck, I even played Y2K. (Which, by the way, was not worth playing.) So when Dream Chronicles was first announced, I was quite excited. An adventure game for casual gamers!

Dream Chronicles (DC) is a typical first person adventure game, except that it is completely linear, and all the objects that you need to solve a given puzzle is usually near or on the same screen of the puzzle so there’s never any backtracking. Adding to the game is a number of “fairy jewels” that you have to pick up along the way that represents themselves on screen as colorful marbles. That would add to a “score” at the end of the game.

Puzzles in DC are a mixture of logical inventory puzzles (such as attaching wheels, washer, and nut to a spoke of a wagon) and riddle puzzles. What I mean by “riddle” puzzle is anything that doesn’t involve putting an inventory object on another – kind of like the 7th Guest. There’s a lot of “put this bunch of icons in sequence” as well. Mostly they are very logical.

Most of the time, however, you’d be spending object hunting. You’d be given a hint as to what you’re looking for, and off you go to look for it. Until you find every single last item, you can’t solve the puzzle and move on to the next screen. If you’re stuck long enough, the object will twinkle. These things are hidden adventure game style versus what casual gamers are used to; there’d be a corner sticking out of a book or a scrap coming out of the bushes. If you happen by them, however, the tooltip will come up letting you know what you mouse just moved over.

Some things are extremely small. Other times you’d find yourself peering into the darkness of the monitor thinking “what the heck am I looking at?” Since there is no setting to adjust brightness, you could end up with the dreaded adventure scenario of “pixel hunting.” Which I had to do many times. Most of the time when I found something I wouldn’t notice any change in the scene from before.

Another note is the linearity – once you finish a room, you can’t go back to it, and once you’ve finished the game, there’s really no point of playing it again aside from raising your score. That’s one thing about adventure games that doesn’t mix well with the casual game genre – there is little, if any, replayability in adventure games. Since DC also dumbed down the adventure part of the game by making all objects for a puzzle available in the same room as the puzzle, the game also goes absurdly fast. You could easily finish this in a couple of hours or less.

The art in DC is absolutely stunning for a casual game, and typical for an adventure game. The music is lovely, and the sound effects doesn’t stick out. There’s definitely a whole lot of production value here – beautiful adventure games are costly to make. That’s what makes casual games so lucrative – one puzzle with many difficulty levels = one game. Adventure game? Many scenes, many puzzles, many items … = one game.

As more casual games developers are looking to revive the adventure gaming genre by making them casual, I can’t help but feel that this is taking two steps back. Instead of spending $20 on a game you could finish in a couple of hours, why not pick up The Longest Journey at Staples for $9.99? It lasts for hours and hours, and the art is just as beautiful, if not more os.

Advertisements

Aliasworlds have been really churning out the good looking time management games lately – The Apprentice Los Angeles (essentially 3 games in one) comes to mind. One thing that really stood out in Los Angeles was the massive production value – beautiful graphics, tons of animations, rich cell-shaded 3D graphics. Another thing that I remember was the length of the game, namely that it was short. Turbo Pizza is another one of these games – pretty, clickaholic, short.

Turbo Pizza is essentially a Cake Mania clone. Your character serve customers by baking pizza from raw ingredients, serve ice cream, dessert and pop. It’s all very standard. Actually, it’s not only standard, but like The Apprentice: Los Angeles, overly simplified. There are 3 types of ingredients to go into pizzas, and you can only use one at a time; you can’t stack them. There are two flavours of ice cream prepared the same way. Pop and dessert are basically the same thing, with different graphics. Customers all look different but act the same, with different patience levels. At the end of each level, you’ll be presented with a “buy” screen where you can get more ovens, faster move times, faster cook times, etc. On the surface, it feels like Cake Mania. After you dive in for a bit, you’ll see that it’s very much striped down.

There is ONE mini-game in Turbo Pizza that is actually quite a lot of fun. You have to make pizzas matching those in the recipes (represented graphically, not a list of ingredients) with ingredients coming down a conveyor. Unfortunately, you only get to play it twice. It’s also the same mini-game (same pizzas) both times that you get to play it.

There are aspects to the time management genre that must be addressed. Your character should move at a reasonable speed, and certain actions should take time to perform. Having these “times” to work around, we thus “manage” it. “Customer” types are also very important. In the classic time management games, what really made games like Cake Mania and Diner Dash stand out from the crowd was that the customers interacted with one another. It gave them personally and made them different. Also, the time limits a customer place on the player is variable – they can be appeased if we’re really pressed for time. These elements made the time management genre more than just a series of clicks. These elements made the player think about how best to approach the level.

Turbo Pizza, like the case of Los Angeles, threw all these ideas out the window. Gone are the slow waiting times, customer types (purely superficial and based upon a timer) and time bonuses. Gone too, with them, the strategic element that made time management games worth playing. All that’s left, really, is to click around the screen matching colors of ice creams and shapes of ingredients. Technically, each level presents a different sort of challenge, with different customer types. In reality, however, every level plays pretty much the same way – business men and women can wait, everyone else can’t. Stack your orders to chain bonuses. That’s it.

Graphically, Turbo Pizza is like the other cell-shaded 3D games. Snowy Lunch Rush and The Apprentic: Los Angeles. it’s very impressive looking cell-shaded 3D that should run smoothly on any mid-range computer. It’s downright gorgeous. The music isn’t bad either, though I wish for more variety since it all sound like one big midi tune.

There are technically 50 levels – 10 stages of 5 each. But it feels like two big stages of 25 each since there are only 2 different restaurants and they play exactly the same way with different main ingredients and decor. It does seem to go awful quickly – if you’re decent at color matching and fast-clicking, you can easily finish every stage on expert without repeating anything once. Is it worth it? That depends. Games that are fast-clicking involving little thinking also tend to be the additive ones. So if you find the graphics compelling enough and it’s challenging enough for you, it’s really not a bad game to play through. However, if you yearn for more strategic level design, just load up Cake Mania and play that again.

Oberon Games has created some of my favorite object hunting games – not only are they nicely composed with well made backgrounds and clean looking objects, but they are the ONLY object hunting games that are challenging. While their competition dole out games that are really aimed at the casual gamer, Oberon Games make their games consistently challenging. I had high expectations for Dream Day Honeymoon, and unfortunately, it seemed like it was just a little too high – I was quite disappointed.

Let’s start with what I loved about Dream Day Honeymoon. Out of a sea of games I could finish within a couple of hours, Dream Day Honeymoon drags out for days. Where other games of its type asks you to find 30 objects in 25-30 minutes, Dream Day Honeymoon demands 45 objects in 15 minutes. Not only that, it presents these objects in extremely hard to spot places using pretty much every trick in the book. Small objects are big and hidden behind others, objects that you expect to be big are tiny or are signs and decals. Penguins hide behind clutter and shapes hidden amongst tree branches. Scenery change on occasion, and when disasters strike, everything is scrambled.

Some later scenarios took me five tries to get through. I love it. With 30 locations, and 3 locations each mission to go through, the game seems to be never ending, even as the plane approaches the final destination. There are also “birds of paradise” to collect throughout the game, where 5 birds collected will give you a new hint.

The same mini-games that were in Dream Day Wedding are also in Honeymoon, albeit slightly upgraded. Perfect Match now features “shuffle” tiles that shuffles the whole board when you match them. There isn’t much variety, but the core game is juicy enough that the mini-games are very much secondary.

Another thing that came along with the Dream Day name is the sleek looking GUI and gorgeous transition effects. The background music is lively though repetitive; sound effects are appropriate but nothing special. A few more audio tracks would be nice, say for different locations.

Dream Day Wedding was an object hunting game on the difficult side, but one thing that I’ve gotten used to from Oberon Games are the beautifully composed backgrounds. There might be lots of objects, but most of the scenes never quite look messy. If you want a quintessential look at what I mean by “well composed,” download Death on the Nile. Dream Day Honeymoon’s scenes, however, wavers from the side of complete chaos to pretty darn messy. A lot of things are just strewn all over, and none of the scenes give you the effect that you’re on honeymoon. It feels like honeymoon is over and we should get on with the doing of dishes and laundry.

As much as I love the ramped up difficulty level, I can see that it may be so difficult that it may not be very accessible for most. There is no timeless mode where you can choose to play without a time limit – it is honeymoon after all – or an extended clock. Also, for a game that’s aimed towards the female casual gamer, it’s rather weird that we’re stuck with the names Robert and Jenny. It’d be nice if you can change the names and import heads for the final photograph – it’d make a nice wedding present.

Dream Day Honeymoon is definitely something you’d want to pick up if you find the current offers of object hunting games too easy. I was expecting more, but it’s definitely a worthy sequel to Dream Day Wedding. It’s definitely worth a second or even third play through as it’s hard to memorize where everything is since it does change every so often. Worth the try.

Thought I’d update this walkthrough to include full size images. So here they are!

Basement

Boiler Room

Boiler Room

Cellar

Cellar

Ground Floor

Guest Saloon

Saloon

Kitchen

Kitchen

Lobby

Lobby

Guest House

Clock Room

Clock Room

Entry

Entry

Homestead

Homestead

Spare Bedroom

Spare Bedroom

Garden

Backyard

Backyard

Garage

Garage

Porch

Porch

Wine Cellar

Wine Cellar

East Wing

Balcony

Balcony

Drawing Room

Drawing Room

Gallery

Gallery

Pantry

Pantry

West Wing

Library

Library

Indian Room

Indian Room

Music Room

Music Room

Nursery

Nursery

Trophy Room

Trophy Room

Second Floor

Bathroom

Bathroom

Billiard Room

Billiard Room

Corridor

Corridor

Master

Master

Study

Study

Attic

Attic

Attic

East Tower

East Tower

West Tower

8_attic_west_tower.jpg

Some like to think of the corporate office as a well oiled machine; everyone shows up on time, work gets piled up in the morning and done by mid afternoon, nobody checks their personal email at work, and so forth. As if. To those of us who has ever spent time in a modern day office – with the TV in a spare room, the white board in QA delegated to doodling purposes, and technical support that arrives by skateboard – we know all too well that it’s just organized chaos. Sometimes not even very organized, at that.

It was only a matter of time before someone took that idea and made it into a game. In Miss Management, you’d get to manage a bunch of slackers who either sleeps on the couch, make bad-smelling things in the microwave, uses the bathroom 10 times a day, spent all their time at the water cooler chatting up girls, and/or all of the above. While you make sure everyone stay happy, you also have to make sure work gets done. Sounds like fun, eh? As strange as it may sound, it is. Miss Management tied the storyline and tasks so well together, it feels like you’re doing much more than getting tasks done.

In most time management games you have customers (a whole lot of them) and servers. Usually you have to use your servers, which are tireless drones or machines, to serve your customers, who runs out of patience. In Miss Management, your employees are both. That’s what makes this game interesting; in order to finish tasks, you need to keep your employees’ stress levels from overflowing and stomping out. As they serve you by finishing tasks, you serve them – by giving them time-outs at the smoking area, serving them donuts and coffee, or letting them nap on the couch. All the while you have to watch your own stress level – if an employee burns out, they can return for anther day. If you burn out, however, you’d be stuck restarting the day, losing a day-count in the process.

To throw more complication into the mix, each employee find different things stress-relieving while others find others doing the same stressful. For example, a few employees may find someone napping on the couch while they work like dogs to be downright annoying; others find smoking to be both hazardous to your health as well as the $800 haircut. So it’s a constant balancing act – if someone finds pretty much everything annoying, it’s a good idea to not have someone turning on the AC, playing the radio, and someone else chatting at the water-cooler at the same time.

What makes Miss Management different is also its well-written story that is woven right into the tasks you are given. Instead of the general goal of “make this much money” that most time management game sets, Miss Management demands different goals for each employee in each episode, as well as secondary goals if you want to get a three star rating. The result is a game that never gets stale from the very first episode to the last. As you get closer to the end of the game, you will get to know every single one of the characters, know what they like and dislike, their strengths and weaknesses, their ups, their downs. It’s like playing through a soap opera in Office Space.

The graphics in Miss Management is very stylish and cartoonish, reminiscent of Chibi characters in anime – huge expressive heads with small bodies. The animation is wonderfully done – each character have their own angry/sad/frustrated/stressed out states, and each have their animation while interacting with in-game objects. The music is catchy and the sound effects blends right in. The tune in the radio makes me want to smash things, however. I guess it has that effect on some of the characters as well.

Miss Management is not without its little flaws. The hotspots don’t seem to be very responsive; sometimes I would click on an employee to get him out of a stressful situation and my clicks would miss a few times before I finally select him instead of his desk, and that would be enough time to send him over the edge. The click-click system also doesn’t seem as intuitive as the click-drag system in this case, especially for moving employees. A better system maybe to click-drag employees (ghosting all but the outlines while you drag) and click-click for your character and the files.

Another little quirk I didn’t quite like is that Denise can only carry one thing at a time. She carries one thing in one hand, and then uses the other arm for … posing. Not very productive, are we? It’d also be nice to have the missions save mid-mission so I can play one day and come back later – as a mom, it’s hard to get 10 minutes all to yourself at a time!

All in all, I had fun playing Miss Management. It’s a full-length casual game with 30 missions that would take at least 10 minutes each. Definitely a must for time management game fans, and even for us who enjoys a bit of drama once in a while.

D.N.A. is an original puzzle game that involves…color matching. But it’s not a match 3. And it’s unlike anything you’ve seen. It’s challenging, not forgiving at all, and features beautiful hardware accelerated graphics. For a casual game, it looks downright gorgeous.

And it’s free today from Giveaway of the Day. Get it while it’s hot!

Big Fish Games’ first adventure debut plays something like a Room Escape game crossed with a collection of mini-games. The result is very playable and replayable – not to mention dazzling.

The storyline is the typical soul-got-locked-into-object-save-me plea of an adventure game, and it plays like a puzzle game such as the 7th Guest than it does an “adventure” game like Day of the Tentacle. All instances of hunting for objects and using them is contained in a single screen and it feels a lot like the locks in MCF: Ravenhearst.

Azada is very forgiving when it comes to providing hints. Every time you use a hint, it subtracts 5 minutes. You’re likely to only need one to two hints, so it’s pretty simple to figure things out. The alloted 30 minutes or so for each level is extremely generous – I needed maybe 2-3 minutes for each screen. Your mileage may vary, depending on your level of experience with adventure games. The fact that all the objects can be used in the same scene shortens the gameplay time by just that little bit as well – in an adventure game we’re usually juggling a full inventory and 30 or so locations to use them in. In Azada there maybe a maximum of 5 objects and 1 screen at a time.

Azada features gorgeous particle effects that seems, well, straight out of Mystic Inn. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you – animation is smooth and fluid, shading is realistic, light seems to glow right off of objects. The effect is simply stunning. Even though the game only runs at 800×600 it looks like 1024×768 full screen. The music is almost Disney-esque, or as Stu puts it, “would you turn off that Fantasia already?” It’s not bad at all. All the sound effects – and there are many – goes off without a hitch and never sound out of place.

There are 31 mini-games in Azada. Yup. You heard me. 31. That’s a lot of mini-games. There are no Diner Dash clones or Match-3’s in here like Escape From Paradise, but rather, classic puzzles such as English peg solitaire, Hanoi tower, matchstick puzzles, Mastermind and the old game that we used to play on grid paper, squares. All of these are beautifully executed, though sometimes a bit too simple. They’re likely to take you less than a minute each. When you’ve finish one you can go back to the shelves and play them any time you like, some of them randomized. Puzzles like Matchsticks have extra levels if you go back to play them.

Here’s a list:

  • Symbols – Sudoku clone
  • Squares – Dots and boxes.
  • Matchsticks – classic matchstick puzzles.
  • The Shapes – Chinese Tangrams.
  • Sliders – Traffic Jam / Rush Hour. Or you can try this Bunny Magic game I host.
  • The torn-up image – jigsaw with straight edges.
  • Connect Three – connect three to clicking. Boring.
  • The Colors – Simon. Visual and audio cues is a nice touch.
  • Butterflies – Find the identical butterfly (There is only one pair in each map that is identical)
  • The Pyramid – Swap tiles that are next to each other to form an image. Easy.
  • The Stamps – memory match.
  • Puzzle by numbers – find number by adding and subtracting the numbers in the map.
  • Round and round – move color cubes into same color boxes with a circular cursor.
  • The Towers – Hanoi tower.
  • Sequences – Figure out the next symbol in sequence. Too easy.
  • The Runes – find all same or all different…pretty interesting.
  • Pawns – English peg solitaire.
  • Building blocks – move blocks around until it looks like what’s in the reference map. Feels like work.
  • Final Approach – bounce a ball around with arrow buttons until it falls into the hole. The solutions are often so obvious it just feels like work. Reminds me of the old Castlemouse.
  • The Robot – The robot will walk straight in front of him, and you put arrows on the ground to guide him to his batteries. Clone of Tiny Worlds, without the wolves.
  • Pipes – pipe dream, but you have to close off all the exits of the pipes, and the ooze doesn’t chase you.
  • The maze – a simple maze
  • Chemicals – Mastermind.

If you enjoy puzzle games such as the 7th Guest, you will get quite a lot of enjoyment out of this game. However, if you’re a puzzle expert (such as myself) who knows how to solve the English peg solitaire down to the last peg, the Hanoi Tower in the least number of moves, grew up playing Tangrams and Traffic Jam, and passed time in class playing Matchsticks and Squares, this might be a bit of a short romp through the genre.

Overall, Azada is a great marriage between old fashion point and click adventure games and the casual game genre. I really enjoyed the room escape parts of the game, and some of the mini-games are great, while others felt like work since there’s not so much puzzling to it as there is just clicking. It’d be wonderful to see Big Fish Games tackle a classic point-and-clicker since they seem to have a knack for logical puzzles.

Azada Walkthrough

« Previous PageNext Page »