time management

I tried really hard to like Jane’s Hotel. It’s an extremely addictive time management game. There’s lots to do, lots of things to buy, has an innovative screen spanning system that almost works, and it loooks downright gorgeous. However, when I tried to go back and play one of the earlier levels again, it tells me that in order to do this all my subsequent levels would be erased. It only reminded me of all its other shortcomings that made it such a flawed sim.

Jane’s Hotel reminds me a little bit of Wedding Dash with its two staff system. It’s the only other time I’ve seen it. The maid is responsible for 5 things: cleaning the rooms, watering the plants, doing the laundry, changing the sheets, and bringing golf clubs out to the guests. Jane is responsible for everything else. This includes bringing in coffee, newspapers, phones, food, etc. It all depends on which upgrades you choose to get.

In between each stage is a buying screen where you can use the money you’ve earned in the previous stage to get new furnishings. Technically, there is a choice, but actually, you have to buy everything before you can advance to the next hotel. Some of these things are static, like lamps and paintings; some are interactive, like TVs, dining tables, and the wine rack. Once you buy something interactive, the guests will ask for it in the hotel. So the more you buy, the more customers ask for, and the more likely you will get tips.

Each guest start with checking in where you hand them the keys. They will go to a room that’s available (you can’t hand a key out unless there’s a room available), and once they settle in they will ask for things. At the end of the day they will check out, leave money on your desk, and you have to send the maid to clean up. Simple. With 4 rooms to start, and many more thereafter, it quickly becomes quite hectic and unmanageable. That is, if you don’t know the trick to doing things.

The documentation or “help” in this case is very limited. It lets you know about giving out keys and serving customers, but nowhere does it tell you about the chaining system. It took me a few hectic this-can’t-be-possible tries before I realized that you can chain actions together. For example, even though you can only pick up one cup of coffee at once, you can serve that cup to 3 people. The same thing can be done with the maid; if she has her vacuum out she can do all 6 rooms in a row. You can also give out keys with things in your hands.

Customers look different but act basically the same. There seems to be different patience levels, but I wouldn’t know. There’s no mention of customer types in the help section.

Later on in the levels – you wouldn’t know if you bought it after the trial version thinking you love this game – the game moves on to a multiple screen sytem, where the hotels are so large that they can’t fit on the same screen and you have to scroll. This almost works. It doesn’t really. First of all, if everything weren’t so big, there wouldn’t be a need for this system. Second of all, even though it does alert you (with an arrow) that something is being needed on the other side, it doesn’t tell you what is needed, so you have to scroll over to see it, scroll back to get it, and then scroll over to give it. It’s an extremely annoying system. It hinders play more than it adds to it.

Jane Flo
A side-by-sdie comparison of Jane and Flo. Jane’s a giant.

Another thing that breaks the two screen system is the HUD. In the first couple of hotels, it doesn’t get in the way because it’s not in front of anything. However, once the screen starts scrolling, you’d notice that if it’s in front of anything, you can’t click on it. That applies if it’s in front of the display for the fruit, but not on the fruit, you can’t click on the fruit. It doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but when things get hectic, you’d click on the fruit, click on all the people who need the fruit, only to have Jane stand there doing nothing while everybody gets angry over not having the fruit. Not fun.

Speaking of chain of actions, it’s a good system with flaws. For one, you can’t cancel an action. So if something more important comes up, your maid will still carry out the list of actions. Namely, she could be watering all the plants while the rooms all of a sudden empty out, and a lineup forms at the door with guests wanting keys to those rooms that you can’t give away because she hasn’t cleaned the rooms.

With all that came previously, this might be more of a boon than a bane: you can’t make mistakes. You cannot pick up coffee if nobody wants coffee. You just can’t. You also can’t water plants unless they’re already wilting and taking off popularity points.

Jane’s Hotel is a beautiful game. Jane changes her clothes for every hotel, the hotel looks more polished with every upgrade, and not ot mention each new hotel. The handdrawn sprites are detailed and although they do tend to be a little pixelated at the edges, you can see that a lot of care was put into them. Different animations goes with every action, and it’s just amazing how much work was put into the game graphically. The music, however, leaves much to be desired. Every hotel has the same theme. It really gets on your nerves after a while.

I liked Jane’s Hotel enough to finish it despite its flaws, although once the screen started scrolling it felt more like work than play. It doesn’t save mid-day, and there are no expert scores so there isn’t a point to go back and try to make “expert” once you finished a level. Although I’d like the choice of being able to casually play through a level that I have done before. I also wouldn’t play this with kids around for fear of them picking up the broken English in the documentation.

Paradise Pet Salon is a very pretty game with pre-rendered 3D sprites, really cute puppies and kittens, lots of backgrounds to choose from, tons of room for creative decorating … and that’s about it. After trying to play it for hours, I realized that it’s a sort of non-game. It’s endless clicking from one thing to another with very little reward, a lot of monotony, and an upgrade system that only sort of works.

The tutorial starts with your character working for a big corporation to “learn the ropes.” After the first mission, you’re on your own with your little pet shop, very little money, two work stations, and a slew of unappreciative customers. They will walk in with their pets, and each one will come with any one to four color coded tags. Your job is to lead each pet to the work stations where they are lathered, rinsed, brushed, vaccinated and so on.

In between missions, you can visit the shop screen, where you can purchase more work stations, redecorate the place, upgrade the current equipment to make it more efficient. You can even hire an assistant to take the pets that are ready back to their owners. It’s a very simple tycoon type system, and it would’ve worked were there more variety to the items and customers. Sadly, this isn’t the case.

This is my first disappointment in time management games lately, and it hits hard. It’s like opening up a box of very beautifully wrapped chocolates only to find that they’re all chalky cherry creams. It’s time for the list-form review.

  • You are allowed 9 work stations for each shop, chairs along the sides, and 3 upgrades each. They look and act the same for each location you choose to work at. You need to raise $12,000 to get the next pet store, and the average customer brings in about $40. Add in the fact that you need to also upgrade your equipment, buy new equipment and so on, you can see that you’re in for a lot of days.
  • You can upgrade the machines to work faster, but that doesn’t stop the fact that your player character is painfully slow. Your assistant is faster, actually.
  • There are no mission objectives; sometimes you get a hint of what to expect (everyone will want their pet vaccinated today) but you’re pretty much on your own with no goals to meet with a deadline.
  • There are no “fail” conditions for each day either – all your customer could stomp out for all you care.
  • Customers do not interact with one another. At all.
  • The music is the same for each location. As are the sound effects.
  • The only difference between each location is that you’ll make more money in a new location. Other than that, customes expect the same things, you use the same equipment, and basically play the same scenario over and over again.
  • Sounds boring? That’s because it is!
  • Paradise Pet Salon doesn’t save mid-day, so you’ll have to finish each day before you turn it off. The ESC key is also a little touchy – I’m used to it going to the game menu, but this one bounces you right off to the main menu and you’ll lose your progress.

If there’s ever a game that feels like all the budget went to the same place – graphics – then this is it. If you enjoy the “endless shift” modes in time management games, and could never get tired of them, you might enjoy this one. There is a survival mode, and it does get very hectic. If you’re looking for a time management game, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for some open-ended non-game, this could be the game for you.

What would we do without GameLab? The casual game market would be saturated with time management games without customer interactions, real story lines, and boring clickfest games. I’d go through review after review bashing one game after another in frustration with no end in sight. Thankfully, you are saved from the fate of reading another Coffee House Chaos review; GameLab has done it again with a great time management game called Wedding Dash.

While other games copy Diner Dash, Wedding Dash, while derivative by name, is derivative in name only. It features two servers – you and the waitress – scripted events, multiple personalities (in this case, a good thing) and puzzle infused gameplay. It is so very different from Diner Dash that it puts all the clones to shame.

Wedding Dash casts you in the role of a wedding planner. Before each wedding, your bride and groom will forward their requests, and you can do your best to fullfil them by ordering the right flowers, getting the right cake, and hopefully not ordering fettuccine Alfredo when the groom asks for Surf and Turf. Once that is decided, the wedding will start. Your job is to keep the guests happy by seating them next to people they want to sit with and at the table they want to sit at. At the same time, you have to make sure your waitress is bringing the gifts to the couple, delivering food on schedule as well as filling any requests for music.

Your guests are full of personalities. You have the cousin who eats really quickly and just want to get on the dance floor, the aunt who gets just a little overly emotional, the uncle who drinks too much and gets rowdy, the impatient neighbor who gets mad at the tiniest delay in getting his food, the socialite that everyone wants to sit next to, among others. Scenarios are well-planned, however, so that each one mission has an optimal way to be solved. That’s a true sign of a well-made puzzle game, and Wedding Dash has it.

In other words, Wedding Dash is a game that both Diner Dash addicts (who’d buy every installment) and newcomers to the genre (who’d play puzzle games) will find something to like. It’s a game that time management fans will sink their teeth into right away, while other gamers who are usually not used to games like these can enjoy the leisurely pace of the beginning while the game gets more hectic by the mission. The learning curve is built right into the difficulty curve, and you won’t even see it coming – before you know it you’re placing guests like a seasoned planner and serving 3 course meals by the dozens, even if you haven’t dabbled in the genre before.

Wedding Dash looks slightly dated after seeing games like Miss Management and especially games that feature cell-shaded 3D like The Apprentice: Los Angeles, but it does have a style all its own. The expressions of the guests as they are served (and especially when they’re not served on time) are priceless. Although I did keep wondering what our bridezilla would look like in full cell-shaded 3D glory. The music is upbeat and suits the game well enough.

If you’re looking for the next great time management game, this is it. If you’re not looking, but is interested in trying out one, this is the one to try – it’s the most accessible in the genre yet. It has a little bit of everything – problem solving, humor, personality – and even if you haven’t thought that you can play one of these games, Wedding Dash might surprise you. Give it a try.

From the makers of Diner Dash came Wedding Dash, a time management game of wedding reception hosting. Having playing it up to the last tier of cake (which is bloody impossible! Argh!) I can tell you that it’s definitely one of the best time management games I’ve played, and very much original in its two server system.

It has well-planned, puzzle strategy oriented levels, quirky characters whose personalities scream, great guest interactions that are built into the gameplay, and a progressively challenging main game mode that stays fresh, level after level. What’s not to like? Watch for a review in this space – just as soon as I get the chance to finish it.

In the same trend of work-as-fun games spawned by the Diner Dash series, we have what could be the least fun of all – working in a hospital during a weird virus outbreak. Come on! Think about it! Sure, we’ve done our share of hospital work with Carrie the Caregiver, but she only has to deal with little cute babies who aren’t sick! Fever Frenzy throws us into the fray of people inflicted with such diseases as bipolarbear-disorder, shrunken-head, and mothergoose-bumps. Thankfully, the basic formula that makes time management games addictive are all here, plus some extras. Namely, the crazy monkey.

Fever Frenzy starts out as a complete Diner Dash Clone. If you switch out the beds for tables and prescriptions for orders, it’s Diner Dash. Patients will show up and start sitting at the bench, and you have to have to diagnose them by putting them in the blood pressure chair. Once that is done, you have to place the patients in their beds – hopefully, you can match their pajamas to the colors of the beds. Then after a few moments of snoozing, they will start ringing the bell – you have to diagnose and write a prescription, then drop it off at the nurses’ station to have them prep it, then pick it up and drop it off at the numbered patient. When the patient is better, you click on them to “ring them out.” The bed needs to be cleaned before another patient can use it. Diner Dash. See?

What makes it different is the apparent humor in this game. All the diseases have funny names, and every patient says something different that matches their symptoms. Dislocated-pElvis will go “uh huh help me…uh huh help me” when he asks for help, the paranoid patient will say “I’ll trust you…just this once” when you hand her her medicine, and the animalized patients will make an animal sound.

There are also lots of little differences between each of the four hospitals you will work in. For example, the children’s hospital will have visitors, and while most of the hospitals have viruses that float around that you have to spray, the last one (in the Rainforest) features an annoying little crazy monkey who dances on patients’ heads. This ensures that you will be sucked into this game early, then differences introduced slowly so you don’t feel like you’re playing the same game over and over again.

Speaking of differences, Fever Frenzy features a randomized customers system. When you start a level, both the colors of the beds as well as the patients that walk into the door are randomized. So you’re guaranteed to never play the same game twice. This is both a good and a bad thing – sometimes the combination of colors makes it much easier to match colors and get a bonus that way, and sometimes it makes it pretty well impossible to get the expert score. The positions of the beds are also different in every hospital, and the game purposefully place numbered bed in weird places so you have to plan ahead – beds 4 and 5, for example, are at opposite ends of the screens in the Rainforest levels. It also intentionally creates detours for you as the game goes on to make it more difficult for you to get to patients.

There is a skill-buying system in place, so you can use whatever money you saved at the end of each level to buy upgrades for your character. This is both a good and bad thing. Well, it’s mostly a bad thing. Sure, you can buy upgrades for your character, but this doesn’t really affect the difficulty scaling in a good way. If you’re good at the game and you constantly hit expert, you get more money, and can buy more upgrades to make the game easier. If you’re not good at it, and consistently barely make goal, you won’t have enough money to buy upgrades, and the game gets harder. In a game like this, it’s much more efficient to upgrade your character automatically while using all that “extra” money for decorative purposes.

There is also a “perks” system where you are allowed to use your power-ups once during each level. These either stops all the viruses (or monkeys) or lets you heal with your hands, etc, that are really “super” power-ups. Fever Frenzy does get frantic enough that you will find yourself wishing that you could use a perk again in a given level.

There is a mini-game in Fever Frenzy, although you only really get to play it 3 times. It involves picking out DNA strands from a petri dish that matches the DNA strands shown on the left side. It’s a lot of fun, and really should’ve been used more often – I find myself missing the game a bit, since it’s not replayable via the map screen either.

Fever Frenzy does not save mid-level, but demands that you restart a day if you want to continue. Strangely enough, when you click continue, it doesn’t send you back into the map screen. It seems a small thing, but that means that if you went back to an older level to try for expert, but you change your mind, you can’t just quit it and do a later level. You’re stuck there until it’s over I also wish there was more interaction between the patients, but there was already enough “extras” in the game to keep me playing.

The graphics are lively enough, but they are hand-drawn sprites, and the animations doesn’t seem as smooth as other games in this genre. The environments that you’d be working in, however, are quite lovely – they have little details to them that really adds to the frantic quality of the game. The music is pretty good too – each hospital has its own theme, and it was nice to not have to listen to the same tune for 40 levels. Sound effects are stellar; the voice-acting really did a whole lot to enrich this game.

Fever Frenzy is definitely an asset in the time management genre – it has variety, good power-ups, humor, and most of all, it is awfully addictive, and unlike some games of this genre where you wish it was over by level 20, this one keeps you playing to the end, and the randomized levels ensure that no two levels are the same. Even though it’s not a Minute Game, it can be played when you can take a 10 minute break. Recommended for those of us who has good reflexes – it’s hard!

Hints: Fever Frenzy

Read the general hints in your help menu! After that, read this:

  • When you take in babies, count them. You want at least 4 babies who are of the following types: ghost, dragon, or cyclops. As soon as you have 4 of those, ignore the door. Tend to them religiously and you shouldn’t have any problems getting 5x purple halos for those 4 kids.
  • If you don’t get the kids you want, you can always “save and exit” and “play” again. The kids are randomized.
  • Keep a diaper on hand at all times and always change on “on the spot” instead of carrying them to the change station. If you must go to the change station, change and get an extra at the same time.
  • At the beginning of each chapter, familiarize yourself by running from one spot to another. Sometimes even though things look like they’re close together, they’re not. In some levels the hotspot (where Molly stands when she drops off the baby) for the mat is above, and some is below. Find out before you start picking up kids.
  • Prioritize the buying of items that shortens feed / sleep / play times. The extra chair / crib / play areas aren’t necessary if you master the art of swapping babies.
  • Swap your babies! Don’t move them unless they need something or another baby needs their spot.
  • Once you have the nanny you can handle 5 kids, since you can just leave one with the nanny unless there’s a need to change the diaper.
  • Break up fights immediately – boo boos take as long as diapers.

Daycare Nightmare review

Following in the footsteps of similar games like Carrie the Caregiver and Birdies, Daycare Nightmare is yet another time management game that allow you to cater to cute kids. These kids, however, aren’t nearly as cute as ones in the aforementioned games. Slimes, vampires, cyclops are 3 of the 5 types of kids you’ll serve. On the first glance, the graphics looked pretty cheesy (especially the comic scenes where it’s downright amateurish), but once you dive into it, you’d realize that you’re playing a time management game with much more depth than, say, Turbo Pizza.

Your protagonist (Molly) started out as a girl running a coffee shop, then later “convinced” to run a daycare for monsters living in your midst. The task is simple – keep the babies happier at pick-up than when they were dropped off. These babies will play or fight together on the mat, demands to be fed, cry to be changed, whine for naps, and ask to go play in the play area. Your job? Carry them from one spot to another. You’ll find yourself always running around with one baby in hand and switching his place with other babies, since somebody almost always need something.

Each baby also has his own cycles of needs: feed -> change -> play -> sleep. If you manage to let a baby go through a cycle without getting upset from your taking too long to get to it, it will gain a halo multiplier. You can gain up to 5 of these by completing 5 cycles, but once you let it get upset even once, it’ll lose all of its halos. So you’ll soon learn to prioritize – if a 5x halo baby is demanding something, you look after him first, versus the one with no halos.

The babies are the life of this game. Even though there are only 5 different baby types, they are very much distinctive, and the interactions between the babies rival that of the employees in Miss Management. They play together, fight together (and if you let a fight go on for too long, they get boo-boos), and when a particular baby gets too angry, every other one is affected. Cyclops will let out a war cry and everyone on the mat will start fighting; ghosts will scare all the babies and they will immediately all need a change of diaper; dragons tend to burn everything in sight, including other babies.

In between missions, you can choose to buy something with your tip money before starting the next. You could purchase power-ups with funny names like the Eyeball Lollipop that reduces the chance of a fight breaking out, or how about a Cranium Bowl that cuts feeding time down by 60%? There are also extra highchairs and cribs you can buy, as well as “services” like the exorcist that would reduce the chance of a haunting by a ghost baby.

Molly never seem to run fast enough to tend to all her babies, and I guess that is what makes a time management game special. The only thing I had a bit of a complaint about is the unbalanced way the tipping system works. By prioritizing the more difficult babies like the ghost, dragon or cyclops, and working them to a 5x halo, you could make over $1000 in tips by ignoring the rest of the babies the entire day, and only caring for 4 of them. If you try to cater to everyone (at least feed the slimes once in a while), chances are you might end up with less than $100.

Gameplay graphcs in this game is not quite stunning as unbelievably cute. It’s obvious that a lot of work has gone into creating the game graphics, and the little touches really stand out. For example, the dragon breathes fire when they fight, vampires drink blood in the highchair instead of milk, and every monster has a different toy animation since they’re interested in different kinds of toys. Each of the locations also have completely different looking “task stations” – a crib may look like a crib in your first day care, but in a cave it’s a mud pile with straw on top, and in a castle it becomes a coffin. Music is appropriately creepy but cute, and the sound effects of the little vampires going “grwarrr” is just adorable.

Daycare Nightmare is not a long game, but should provide 5-6 hours of enjoyment. When you’re done story mode, you can play the Endless Day, which gives you all the upgrades you already bought in an unending day. Not a minute game (since it doesn’t save mid-level) but each mission shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes. It’s definitely worth getting if you’re in the game club.

Hints: Daycare Nightmare

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.

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.

If you’re only going to get one game, you should get Escape From Paradise. I’m not kidding about this; there are so many mini-games (that are actually derivatives of full games) that you’re actually getting 17 games for the price of one. If you’re part of the game club (really, if you’re going to buy it off the fish, you might as well take advantage of the $6.99 pricetag), $6.99 for 17 games is a tremendous deal.

I’m not saying it’s perfect. I thought the graphics look quite dated and the sound effects a little over-compressed and fuzzy. Compared to the cell-shaded graphics of other casual games, and the other Toy Box Games offering, Nanny Mania, this looks downright homely.  The mini-games are very playable, but there’s nothing original about them – it’s just your varied offering of the most typical casual games. From a Diner Dash clone to Chinese Checkers or even a game of marbles, it’s all here. There’s even a game of bridge-war, and I’m not sure if there are casual game equivalents. The last time I played that game was in Romance of the Three Kingdoms X.

The core game is simular to Virtual Villagers, but with much more going on most of the time. X’s will appear all over the sand for you to dig up; new objectives come up on the map as soon as you’re finished with the last one, so you’re never stuck wondering what you should do next. When you’re desperately low on food, you can always play a mini-game and stock up – unlike in VV where if you’re low on food you could be seeing some hard times and some very dead villagers.

Also, instead of the aquarium nature of VV, you have an active colony that you must take part of. There is a choice of buildings to erect as you progress in the game, and as you get closer to the ending, you also get more levels for each of your mini-games to play with.  Even when you’re done with the core game, you can access any of the mini-games via the main menu screen. The animations are varied and well-done – your lumberjacks will chop faster as they progress in skill level, and your providers can whip out a fishing rod when they want to fish.

My only real complaint is that there is no pause button during the mini-games. I LIVE by the pause button – if the baby’s fussing, the kettle’s screaming, I just click pause and get to it and come back later. Without the pause button, I can hardly pass any of the diner levels. Thankfully, time is not that much of an issue in the other mini-games. All in all, a great game to have in your collection, and you get great bang for the buck too.

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